- Associated Press - Friday, May 27, 2016

HANNIBAL, Mo. (AP) - The Cavemen gathered inside the locker room at Clemens Field for the first team meeting of the new season.

Susan Dent welcomed them while running around to help with odd jobs, most importantly handing out uniforms.

Then, all of a sudden, the room of college-aged ballplayers was stunned with a surprise.

Dent, 56, is their teammate, and it’s not a joke.

She hopes to become the first woman to ever play in the Prospect League. Her official position on the team is outfielder and running specialist.

The Cavemen hope she can bring attention to the team.

“You guys are starting a dream,” she told her teammates. “I’m just putting exclamation on one of mine.”

Susan Dent comes to Hannibal as part of a package deal.

The Hannibal Courier-Post (http://bit.ly/1ONpDvc ) reports that her husband of 23 years, Dick “LT” Dent, is embarking on his first season as the manager of the Cavemen.

Eight months back, Cavemen co-owner Bob Hemond and Susan Dent were discussing her being a pinch runner on the team. LT overheard.

“If she’s going to do that, then I can be your coach,” he said.

At the time, he was kidding.

Now, they’re both here ready for the season home opener against Danville.

Bob Hemond is a student in the Bill Veeck School of Baseball. That means he believes baseball is entertainment as well as a game.

This stunt is evidence.

There’s a back story, though, to how Susan Dent finds herself on the Cavemen team.

Roland Hemond, a longtime executive for major league teams, is the father of Bob Hemond and Susan Dent. The two are siblings.

In the 1980s, while Hemond was the general manager of the Chicago White Sox, the father and his daughter made an agreement: If his team was more than 20 games ahead in the standings, he would sign her to a one-day contract.

At the time, Susan Dent was the captain of the San Diego State University track team.

“We were up by 20 games, and he couldn’t pull the trigger,” Susan Dent said.

That’s why, eight months ago, Bob Hemond took the matter into his own hands. He wants to deliver on what his father offered his sister.

When Bob and Susan first talked about the possibility of her joining the Cavemen, there were some potential obstacles they had to clear. The first was her eligibility to play in the Prospect League.

The rules stipulate that each player must have been enrolled in the spring semester prior to the season, and they must still have college eligibility.

In January, Dent enrolled at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California, to pursue a degree in social humanity. Since she never completed her degree thirty years ago, she still has collegiate sports eligibility.

The 56-year-old is a junior.

Over the past few weeks, Hemond reached out to the Prospect League office to say there was a problem with the player application webpage.

“There’s a glitch,” he said. “You have a systems limitation.”

What limitation is that?

The year of birth only went back to 1966, which presented a problem for Susan Dent, born in 1960.

Soon after, the league made the change to accommodate the Cavemen’s move.

The application was accepted.

Surrounded by sports

Susan Dent has spent time around baseball teams longer than she can remember.

Growing up, she described herself as “a baseball brat” and “always a tomgirl.”

She soon realized her own potential for athletic success.

During her first college years, she excelled on the track as a sprinter. She competed at the 1982 U.S. Track and Field Nationals.

After that, she went from on the track to behind the scenes.

She worked in the sports television industry for about 20 years, starting as one of the first assistant directors for ESPN baseball on the West coast.

She spent 10 years in similar roles with the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings, and also worked at four Olympics for ABC and NBC.

Meanwhile, she continued endurance running and wound up as a member of the all-women America’s Cup sailboat racing team in 1995.

Dent said she’s climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with her daughter. She said she’s been sprinting the past three or four years. And last July, she was the anchor leg in the national 4x100m relay for women 55-59. Her team won.

She’s also been on a senior softball league in California, just miles from where she and her husband reside in Rosarito, Mexico. For many years, LT Dent would play, and Susan would keep score. When she turned 55 last year, she was finally of age to get off the bleachers and play.

She plays right fielder and catcher for the team and also serves as pinch runner. She’s the only woman in that league. It has gone over well.

When her brother came calling about the Cavemen opportunity, she wanted the challenge.

Susan Dent wants you to know she’s not here to take someone else’s position.

She’s here to fulfill a dream.

Last month, she said she took 1,500 at-bats in a batting cage to practice her hitting and bunting. Pitches would come from a machine at 75 miles per hour while Billy Capps, 1954 American Legion player of the year, offered her on-site coaching.

Her first real live batting practice came in the past week, she said.

She’s not sure how long she’ll remain on the team this summer, though she said she’ll help out in whatever way she can.

“Whatever it takes, I am here for the duration,” she said. “All hands on deck. I am not here to make a mockery. I’m just one of the other jocks out there.”

Well, yes and no.

Her locker is not with all of the other players but rather in her husband’s office. That’s because she doesn’t want to intrude.

During the team first few practices, Dent admitted she was a bit nervous, both for how she would perform and how she would be received.

“The response has been very positive,” she said of teammates. “If they back me, I will back them for the rest of their lives.”

The Cavemen’s initial plan was to have Dent on the roster through the season opener or perhaps the first weekend.

Now, though, the path forward remains unclear.

“Now that I’m here, I don’t want to leave,” she said. “I am so excited. Who would’ve thought? I feel like I’m in a baseball fantasy camp.”

Time will only tell what role Susan Dent ends up having on the Cavemen. If she gets in a game, it will likely be as a pinch runner.

She said she hopes her story can bring more people out to the ballpark to watch a rebranded Cavemen team try to improve upon its franchise-worst 16-40 record last season.

She also wants it to show what can happen by dreaming big.

“Have a bucket list,” she said. “If you can get it, then do it. Doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, what your age is, I don’t care if you’re a 13-year-old kid who wants to just try something, make a bucket list.

“Luck is where opportunity meets preparation. You have to be prepared for whatever situation comes your way. If the opportunity’s there, take it, you don’t know how lucky you might be. That’s how I’ve always been.”

___

Information from: Hannibal Courier-Post, http://www.hannibal.net

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