The Batter’s Eye: Hardball: The Girls of Summer

Women have played baseball from the beginning of the sport, but as men’s leagues dominated, girls and women got pushed into softball. Professional (or even semi-professional) women’s baseball leagues all but disappeared.

Hardball: The Girls of Summer (2019, directed by Matthew C. Temple) follows the players of the USA Baseball Women’s National Team as they prepare and compete in the 2016 Women’s Baseball World Cup. It’s enlightening enough, with its strong push for equality on and off the field.

True to its focus, this is not a history lesson (although it does give some background on the sport and women who played) but instead gives insight into several players on the national team. We meet their families, see home movies of them playing as children as well as news stories. It’s basically what you’d expect from a documentary like this.

That doesn’t make it a bad documentary. It’s a sports documentary, and one that was being made as the events were happening. Consequently, the 2016 World Cup was a disappointment for the U.S. team, and while you can’t control reality, it’s a bit of a letdown for both the team and the audience.

The fleeting glimpse into women’s baseball in other countries — including India and Pakistan — are some of the more interesting parts of the movie. That’s not the story Temple was telling, of course, but I’d happily watch a documentary about either of those teams.

There is definitely a lot of baseball in this movie, which is fitting. It’s definitely fun watching these women play and I don’t know where I’d get to see it, but I’ll going to try to check out the Women’s Baseball World Cup when it returns next year.

I maybe wanted a bit more from this documentary than I got, but I still appreciated it giving a spotlight to the women who are playing the game. Baseball is for everyone, after all.