- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 9, 2015

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) - Darby Brown wasn’t sure she was going to play baseball this year.

Inspired by her three older brothers, she started playing Tupelo Parks and Recreation T-ball at age 5, and she’s had undeniable success.

“I played on the all-star team last year and went to state,” she said. “We were in third place.”

But the 9-year-old Tupelo resident is also an award-winning gymnast.

“I was first place in beam at the state competition,” she said.

Her two athletic passions pulled her in different directions, until her dad, Eric Brown, convinced her to give kid-pitch baseball a try.

She’s spent the spring as the only female member of the Astros, and the team earned a 9-1 regular season record.

Darby said she’s had fun, but she’s had to make adjustments.

“She went back and forth the whole week of all-state tryouts,” said her mom, Rosanne Brown, “but she’s been doing so well in gymnastics.”

Though she skipped the tryouts, Darby is a solid fielder at third and second base.

“I had to play first base, too,” she said. “I didn’t like it because I’m not really used to it.”

Her coaches also put her on the pitcher’s mound a few times. It’s a high-pressure position, but Darby said she didn’t mind.

“It’s kind of a rush,” she said. “I just tried to throw to the catcher’s glove.”

When she steps up to bat, Darby has a pretty good eye for the ball, probably because one of her pastimes is going to batting cages with her brothers.

She’s been hit by balls a couple of times, once in the back and once in the arm. They weren’t pleasant experiences, but Darby’s already proved her toughness by doing handstands and cartwheels on the balance beam.

Her teammates respect her abilities, and she’s learned to deal with the way players on other teams react to her.

“Sometimes, they’re like, ‘Oh, there’s a girl on the team,’” she said. “I’m used to it.”

“Boys will jump out in front of her,” Rosanne Brown said. “They will physically stop her and say, ‘Hey, you’re the girl who plays baseball,’ and she says, ‘Yes,’ and they say, ‘Hi,’ and she says, ‘Hello,’ and then they go on their way.”

During the Astros’ last regular season game, Darby pitched from start to finish. She struck out four, tagged two runners at home and fielded a grounder and threw to first for another out. She was feeling pretty good about playing another season of baseball on that day.

There’s more to come. The postseason Director’s Cup tournament is scheduled to start today.

“As for next year, she mentioned that she might not do it,” Rosanne Brown said. “It might depend on how well the team does in the Director’s Cup. It could leave a good taste or a bad taste. We don’t know what she’ll do. We’ll see. A woman’s prerogative is to change her mind.”

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Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com

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