When Karen Linder started high school in 1972 at Westerville South, softball was not offered as a sport.
That soon changed courtesy of Title IX and the persistence of several women and men.
On June 23, 1972, President Richard M. Nixon signed Title IX into law. The law states: “No person in the Unites States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
The legislation forever changed sports, giving girls more opportunities to play in high school, college and professionally.
On Saturday night, the Akron Racers hosted a pregame ceremony before playing the Chicago Bandits at Firestone Stadium to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX.
“I think it is awesome where we are with female sports,” Linder said after being recognized as one of the 40 most influential women in Northeast Ohio softball since 1972.
“I don’t think a lot of the girls that are out there today understand how awesome they have it. They need to appreciate all the opportunities that they have. It is incredible the growth within women’s sports in the last 40 years. I hope it continues to grow in that aspect. There are some things we can do.”
Linder just completed her 16th season as Kent State’s softball coach and has 30 years of collegiate coaching experience. She played softball in high school when it was offered her junior and senior years, and also played volleyball, basketball and tennis before graduating in 1976.
Linder graduated from Otterbein University in 1980 and started coaching.
“I think sports really helps the girls grow and helps with their confidence and self- esteem,” Linder said.
Current Twinsburg softball coach Tiffany McCoy Yehle, 33, agrees.
Yehle played softball at Ellet High School in Akron and helped her team win a Division I state championship in 1996 with sister Tracee McCoy, 30. Both graduated from Ellet and the University of Akron after distinguished playing careers. Tracee played for the Racers.
“Title IX has given myself and other girls an opportunity we would not have had before,” Yehle said. “Being involved in sports you learn so much of who you are.”
Other Ellet graduates recognized were Jill A. Williams and Courtney Pruner.
“It is a huge honor to be recognized,” said Pruner, 25, who is the pitching coach at Cleveland State following a playing career at Ohio State.
“Forty years ago ladies paved the way for what I could accomplish in my years in high school and college. I couldn’t imagine not having sports as a child.”
Title IX has provided educational opportunities, offering college scholarships for female student-athletes in sports that were not previously available.
Springfield, which has won a state-high nine softball titles, had three former players recognized: Tina Mayreis Smith, Alanna Barker Comfort and former Racer Carla Brookbank-Schaal.
Racers owner/general manager Joey Arrietta was also recognized. She formerly coached UA to consecutive NCAA Division II national runner-up finishes in 1984 and 1985.
Former Racer Jessica Toocheck, who graduated from Medina and Kent State, was also honored with the Vance sisters — Dani Vance Crookston, Renee Vance Richardson and Cheryl Vance Nash — who starred at Manchester High School and UA.
Tallmadge, winner of seven state softball titles, had four former players honored: Becky Bailey Brandt, Kimberly Young Harper, Tami Johnston and Amanda Jo White.
Former players from six-time state champion North Canton Hoover were honored, including Katie (Chain) Miller, Jessica Simpson and Holly Goodpasture Collins.
Former Archbishop Hoban coach Mary Ann King was recognized for guiding the Knights softball team between 1981 and 1991 and to five of its six state titles.
Other area honorees in attendance Saturday had ties to Cloverleaf, Copley, Coventry, Crestwood, Field, Green, Hudson, Lake, Marlington, Norton, Our Lady of the Elms, Revere, St. Vincent-St. Mary and Walsh Jesuit.
Former All-American Girls Pro Baseball League player Jane Jacobs Badini was among three who threw out the ceremonial first pitch. She played for the Racine Belles.
Bandits 9, Racers 7
The Racers scored seven runs off Bandits ace pitcher Monica Abbott, but still lost.
Abbott entered the game 4-0 this season with a 0.00 ERA in 32 innings.
Former Racers all-star Kristen Butler hit a grand slam off relief pitcher Jen Mineau in an eight-run fifth inning for the visiting Bandits.
Megan Wiggins, Amber Patton and Alisa Goler also scored on Butler’s homer after reaching base off Racers starting pitcher Lisa Norris.
The Bandits started the inning trailing 3-1. Nikki Nemitz hit a two-run homer that also scored Amanda Williams, Patton singled in Vicky Galindo and Williams doubled in Tammy Williams.
The Racers led 2-1 in the third inning when Lisa Modglin doubled in Sharonda McDonald and Sam Marder singled in Modglin. Rookie Lexi Bennett added to the Racers’ advantage when she smacked a solo homer in the fourth inning.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com.