Waiting in the on-deck circle

Waiting in the on-deck circle

Eleven-year-old Leila Rubio, who has spent the past seven seasons as a catcher and shortstop in the all-girls Pawtucket Slaterettes’ baseball program, recently became the third player in the program’s history to be selected to participate in the Trailblazer Series, a baseball tournament in Los Angeles for girls that is launched in partnership by USA Baseball and Major League Baseball.
Slaterettes’ Rubio earns spot in Trailblazer Series, hopes postponed tournament in L.A. takes place later this summer

PAWTUCKET – Leila Rubio, who is an 11-year-old player in the all-girls Pawtucket Slaterettes’ baseball program, was recently chosen to participate in the 4th annual Trailblazer Series, a baseball tournament for girls that is launched in partnership by USA Baseball and Major League Baseball.

The Pawtucket native was supposed to travel to Los Angeles next month and join approximately 100 other girls from around the country.

However, with the new coronavirus pandemic shutting down sports throughout the country, the event has been postponed indefinitely. Both Faith Rado, Leila’s mother, and Slaterettes president Bethanie Rado said that the event could be rescheduled at a later date, but nothing has been made official as of yet.

“I was really excited,” Leila said about being chosen. “I wanted to meet other girls around the country who like baseball and meet people that I could learn things from.”

Leila’s parents, Faith and Alexander, were also excited for Leila’s opportunity.

“I hoped she would get (chosen), but I didn’t expect it,” Faith said. “I’m very happy and very proud.”

Faith said that they heard about the tournament through the Slaterettes’ Facebook page. When they went to a winter clinic, Rado asked if Leila had signed up yet. From there, Leila not only signed up, but she also became the third Slaterette player to be chosen for the tournament. In 2017, Giulia Carino, a 13-year-old player from Pawtucket, and Quinn Faria, a 10-year-old player from Bristol, participated in the inaugural series.

While those two players received training from some of the nation’s top female baseball players, including alumni from the Team USA Women’s National Team, at MLB’s Youth Academy in Compton, as well as attended the Jackie Robinson Day festivities and a game at Dodger Stadium, Leila can only wait and see if she will be able to enjoy those same experiences.

“Leila is pretty devastated that it has been postponed indefinitely,” Faith said. “With what’s going on, hopefully they will find a time later this year.”

The Rubio family had never been to California and were excited for the trip. Faith said that they never got a full itinerary of what was supposed to happen in Los Angeles, but she had been in email contact with the other families who had previously gone from the Slaterettes. She said during the day there was supposed to be drills and two days of tournaments.

Since Leila is from Pawtucket, she knew all about the Slaterettes’ all-girls baseball league at a young age, and while she never had to play baseball with boys, she said that playing with boys would not intimidate her. This is her seventh year with the Slaterettes, as she started playing in the league when she was 4.

“Her (two older brothers and an older sister) all play, and her father used to play baseball,” Faith said. “She started to love it.”

While Leila’s older sister, Alaynah, transferred over to softball and will be playing in college, Faith said that Leila does not want to change sports. She signed up for one year of fall ball with the Darlington Girls’ Softball League, but after that was over, she immediately went back to baseball.

“I don’t really know – it’s fun,” Leila said about what drew her to baseball. “I really like batting. That’s really fun to me.”

She plays catcher and shortstop, but for the most part, she is a catcher because “it’s a really fun thing, and you see everything that’s happening,” she said.

Faith said that Leila tried out dance and gymnastics, but neither activity had a hold on her like baseball. Leila said that her favorite baseball team is the Boston Red Sox, with “Big Papi,” David Ortiz, being her favorite player.

She attends Jenks Junior High, which along with Pawtucket’s other two middle schools, does not have baseball or softball during the RIPCOA spring season. While the RIPCOA season is on hold, it’s also unclear if the Slaterettes’ season will start on time. Right now, she is still practicing, but that means she is out in her yard with her catcher’s gear on and her dad working out with her.

Leila has attended clinics at the Ken Ryan Baseball Academy and would use the batting cages at that facility, but currently, the facility is closed.

She wants to continue to play baseball in high school – she lives in the same district as Tolman High.

“I love playing the game and I hope I can continue for a long time,” she said.

As for the Trailblazer Series, if it is canceled this year, Leila said she will try to earn a spot in it again next year, but there is no guarantee that she would be picked again.

“I just really hope I get to play,” she said.