Woman Crush(ing It) Wednesday: Malaika Underwood

Guys, baseball! Are you feelin' it?! 'Cause I sure am! I haven't been this excited about baseball in approximately nine years and I am just all about it right now. So today we're chatting about a female baseball player. There is, in fact, a U.S. women's national baseball team. I didn't know such a thing existed until this summer, but suddenly it was like I'd been waiting for it my whole life. And Malaika Underwood is like the original version of Mo'ne Davis.

+ Malaika has been ballin' since day one. When she was in eighth grade, she knew she wanted to continue playing baseball in high school. But she also knew that not all high school teams would give a girl the chance to play. So she wrote letters to the coaches at various high schools she could attend, giving them her Little League stats and asking for a fair shot at making the team. (Keep in mind that this was in 1995.) One coach said he'd give her that shot, so that's where she decided to go to school.

+ In high school, Malaika played on the girls' volleyball team in the fall and the girls' basketball team in the winter, and the boys' baseball team in the spring. But because the basketball season overlapped, she could only join the baseball team late in the season. She was never guaranteed a spot on varsity and had to earn it, despite pitching and playing second base on junior varsity for two years. But she was just as good as all the boys, so don't worry, she earned it. And the craziest thing? She was so good at volleyball that she attended the University of North Carolina on a full volleyball scholarship and was a four-year starter and ACC tournament MVP. As one does.

+ Once Malaika headed off to college, she figured her baseball days were done. She graduated in 2003 and spent a few years coaching Little League. But in 2004, USA Baseball decided to establish a women's national team, and Malaika joined up in 2006. She's since been on the national roster seven times, which is pretty unprecedented in women's baseball, and is one of the undisputed team leaders. The head coach calls her "the ageless wonder." She's played in the Women's Baseball World Cup five times (one first, two second and two third place finishes).

+ So, it's probably no surprise that Malaika is team captain of the women's national team. And this summer was a pretty nice time for her to be captain, as it was a pretty big summer for women's baseball. The Toronto 2015 Pan American Games included women's baseball on the program for the first time. And when I say "first time," I mean that this was the first time that women's baseball has ever been included in a multi-sport Games. Ever. Sooooo, kind of a big deal. The U.S. women went undefeated on their way to a gold medal (talk about a league of their own!) and Malaika was at the top of almost every single offensive category. She was first in batting average (.600), stolen bases (2) and runs scored (7), and second in slugging percentage (.667). Defensively, she was third among first basemen with a .975 fielding percentage (with 38 put-outs and three double plays, both category-leading numbers). So baseically, girlfriend killed it.

Malaika Underwood: the hero female baseball fans deserve.

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