Rosie Dotson quickly proved she can hit with a wood bat.
A worker at The Landing living history village in Shakopee, Dotson gave vintage base ball a try with the Richfield-based Quicksteps. Doug Ernst, the Quicksteps manager, often brought the team to the village where he works with Dotson.
“I asked if I could bat,” Dotson said. “I didn’t really let Doug know I knew how to play ball, so he gave me the rundown on it.”
Dotson grew up as a big baseball fan and softball player. She listened to Ernst’s instructions and then executed on the first pitch.
“I hit it over the right fielder’s head to the tree line,” Dotson said. “I was kind of hooked after that.”
Dotson began to play as needed for the team and eventually began the process of forming a women’s team in 2012. The Lady Quicksteps began play in 2015.
“We hope that it will add to the appeal [and] get husbands and boyfriends interested in our side of the game,” Ernst said.
Vintage base ball — two words like in the 1860s — brings the game and its history to the diamond. The players wear uniforms resembling the style of the era. Bats have the regulation 2½-inch diameter in the thickest part and the players use a softer ball with lemon-peel stitching.
Even the umpire dresses for the times with a suit and top hat. Only swinging strikes are called, with the score announced between innings, per rules of the times. The men’s Quicksteps team was among the first in the state to rekindle interest in the game, with contests typically played in affiliation with town festivals and fairs.
“It’s a way to draw people in and a way to have fun with history,” St. Croix base ball club manager Brent Peterson said.
Peterson said he has received interest from four or five women about playing on a team so far. Wives of players occasionally step in for the Stillwater-based club as needed.
Dotson fulfilled her goal of forming a team when the Lady Quicksteps took the field for three games last year. They played women’s teams in Rochester, Lanesboro and Menomonie, Wis.
“It’s a lot different playing with all women than with all men,” Dotson said. “It’s kind of nice to have a little bit less aggressive of an atmosphere.”
This summer, the Lady Quicksteps have two games remaining: a contest in Richfield on Aug. 27 and one in Lanesboro on Sept. 7.
Afton Red Sox manager Ray Hanson, known as “Stache” for his long mustache, tried to have a women’s game at Lumberjack Days in Stillwater on July 16 for a second consecutive year.
It didn’t work out in 2015 at the Old Athletic Complex. But Hanson and Dotson pulled a game together this year despite a multitude of scheduling conflicts for Lady Quicksteps players.
“I had a bunch of birthday parties and weddings pop up last second,” Hanson said.
Recruiting wives of the players on the men’s team, friends and family members worked out in the end with 14 girls and women taking the field for the July 16 game. They played nine innings in conjunction with the men’s games at the main field.
“That’s pretty typical of what you would see in the very beginning, so it’s nice that we had that kind of experience,” Dotson said, referring to the beginning of women’s base ball.
The women’s game took off in the 1880s, just after the time period vintage base ball seeks to depict.
In the July 16 game, players ranging from middle school-age to middle-age quickly adapted the different aspects of vintage ball such as catching the ball with no gloves. Most donned attire reminiscent of the 1800s women’s game, with long-sleeve shirts and dresses.
“Those little girls kept up,” said the Lady Quicksteps’ Casey Hinck, who lives in Hudson, Wis.
Players also used wood bats, a first for many of them.
“It was a fun change,” Heather Wayne of Minneapolis said about the bats. “It feels totally different.”
After the game, a number of players circled Dotson to sign up with the Lady Quicksteps, confirming interest in women’s vintage base ball.
Growth will take time, though, with various clubs showing interest such as the Northfield Silver Stars, Rum River Rovers and Afton Red Sox. Silver Stars manager Dan Hagen already has a women’s team name picked out, the Silver Belles.
Men’s vintage base ball in Minnesota started small, too, with the Quicksteps in 1994. Now there are 10-plus teams.
Vintage base ball holds a draw for the players whether it’s the history and/or the approach to the game. Many like the camaraderie of the friendly contest, which concludes with a “Huzzah” by both teams.
“It’s more about sportsmanship than anything,” Hinck said.