Pink hats: Women go to bat for their favorite sport

Bob Stern

Even Terri O’Connor admits she may be taking her love of baseball a little too far.

The 45-year-old mother of two is getting married on Oct. 4, and, well, let’s just say there’s a baseball theme to the wedding.

For one, she’s planning a Wiffle Ball game after the reception. The table centerpieces will have a baseball theme. “And I found in a magazine a baseball hat with a veil,” she said.

The date, Oct. 4, puts the ceremony in the first weekend of the playoffs, but she’s got that covered too. “We’ll get a big-screen TV in there,” she said.

O’Connor’s not alone.

Studies show that 47 percent of baseball fans are women, making baseball the most gender-balanced of the four major sports. And 17 percent of women consider themselves avid baseball fans.

Around here, some folks call female fans “pink hats,” a nod to the popular pink Red Sox caps many girls and women are sporting.

And now, Stoughton native Deidre Silva, who lives in Seattle, has co-authored a book on the subject, titled “It Takes More Than Balls — The Savvy Girls Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Baseball.”

She and co-author Jackie Koney offer female fans ways to enhance their game-watching experience.

“I started thinking, my husband is a big fan and I’m a big fan, but he has an institutional knowledge of the game because he’s played it for years,” Silva said.

“Millions of women baseball fans come to it later to impress a new date or maybe because a son is in Little League or maybe it’s something to do with their husbands,” she said.

When women do come to baseball, many end up being rabid fans of the game and devoted to the team of their choice.

O’Connor — a Middleboro resident who works as a behavior specialist at the Neuro-Rehabilitation Center in that town — knows her affection for baseball in general and the Red Sox in particular can be a bit much, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I am off the wall,” she says. “Keep in mind I work in a brain-injury unit. I fit right in.”

Some fans date their allegiance back to the 1967 season, the “Impossible Dream” year when the Red Sox lost to the Reds in seven games in the World Series — and their memories often involve their fathers.

Take Carole Wassmouth of Pembroke.

“My parents were divorced and my father lived in North Quincy,” she said. “Every weekend, I went to his house and watched baseball when it was on. Just being a young girl, I wanted to spend time with my dad and in order to do that, I’d watch baseball and be bored. But it was quality time with my dad.”

Her father has since passed on, but she’s taken his love of the game and is instilling it in her 4-year-old son, Evan.

“This is what I’ve got to do in order for him to know his grandfather — to introduce the Red Sox to him,” said Wassmouth.

“It’s weird,” she added. “Ever since my father died, the Red Sox are doing awesome. My personal feeling is this is the way my dad knows my son is watching baseball is that the Sox are winning.”

Others get turned on to baseball by boyfriends or husbands. Debra Diegoli of Taunton met her husband, an avid sports fan, when he was playing softball.

“He turned me on to all sports,” she said, “and baseball latched on the most quickly.

“Game 7 of the American League Championship series in 2004 happened to fall on my wedding anniversary, and I said to myself the only thing I wanted was to win. My husband was thinking the same way.”

But as elated as she was when the Red Sox finished off that comeback against the Yankees, she had been equally disturbed a year earlier when the Red Sox lost the series to the Yankees.

“I ended up in the hospital with stress-related hives,” she said. “I was just a mess.”

Courtney Mandeville, a senior pitcher on Taunton’s Coyle-Cassidy High School softball team, comes from a baseball family.

“We’re always watching the Red Sox. I love watching the game,” she said. “I get excited when someone knocks it out of the park or someone makes a diving catch. You never really know (what’s going to happen).”

Whether it’s love for the game or devotion to the Sox, the girls of summer are happy that spring has arrived, and with it the return of baseball.

“There’s just something in it that I just love,” said Marie Donnelly, a stay-at-home mom in Middleboro. “I consider it to be almost therapeutic, I enjoy it so much. It’s part of who I am. I think it’s in my blood.”