When Amanda Heins, 10, took the field at a recent Reading Phillies game, the pony tail sticking out of her baseball cap made her easy to distinguish among the other players on the field.
Amanda, a fifth-grader at KD Markley, is the only girl in Great Valley Little League's National League (10- and 11-year-olds). Players from the league's top fundraising teams got to attend the June 18 minor league game; having a catch on the professional diamond was the cherry on top.
It was her ponytail that caught the attention of Ruth Hartman, a former professional baseball player and longtime Reading Phillies season-ticket holder. She requested a meeting with Amanda.
Hartman played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League—the 1940s organization that served as inspiration for the movie "A League of Their Own." She and Amanda discussed favorite positions and what it was like to play in a game dominated by men.
When Amanda first signed up for Little League, at age 8, her father filled out a form, checking the boxes for "Female" and "Baseball."
"I got email from a woman, saying, 'I’ll be your daughters softball coach,'" Fred Heins said. "I said, Amanda, it looks like you will be playing softball."
She wasn't happy about that, so Heins called the league and had her put her in the hardball division. The person he spoke with just assumed Heins made a mistake on the form, he said.
Two years later, it isn't just her hair that makes Amanda stand out—she's an All Star.
"She's a gritty little ballplayer," said Scott Bennett, her coach on the GVLL National League Braves. "A quiet girl, but a really good ballplayer."
Bennett said he's followed her for a while, and drafted her to his team this year based on high marks from her previous coaches.
"I've had her pitch, catch, play shortstop and centerfield. She's leadoff batter and has a 600-plus on-base percentage," Bennett said.
Amanda said she's never played softball, and isn't interested in trying. Her favorite professional player is the Phillies' Roy Halladay.
Amanda has experience being the only girl around. She's the first female born into the Heins family in 48 years.
"My brother had all boys. I was one of four boys," Heins said.
She's not the first athlete, though. Her father played college baseball, and her mother, Sheila, was a skater with Olympic aspirations.
The Heins family aren't sure in which baseball leagues she'll be able to keep playing as she grows, but they will find a way.
"All my neighbors say if you pay a dime for her college, you did something wrong," Heins said.