August 23, 2019
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Puerto Rican baseball pioneer says female athletes can compete against men

Jorge J. Muñiz Ortiz

Utuado, Puerto Rico, May 25 (efe-epa).- After becoming the first woman to play in Puerto Rico's otherwise all-male Superior Double A Baseball League, Diamilette Quiles told EFE that she hopes to inspire other female athletes to compete against men in a range of sports.

"My goal is to show that women have talent and to motivate boys and girls so that the dreams they have can come true," the 33-year-old Quiles said.

She made history last Sunday when she wore the uniform of the Montañeses de Utuado team and entered the game at first base, becoming the first woman to compete in that league since its inception 80 years ago.

"What I want to show is that women are able to play any kind of sport against men," Quiles said.

A native of Utuado, a town in the United States commonwealth's north-central region, said that since making her debut she has seen countless mothers take to social media and express a desire for their daughters to be equally as successful.

"This has really been an achievement," Quiles said Friday before the Montañeses defeated the Arenosos de Camuy 3-0 in a playoff game at Ramon Cabañas Stadium in Utuado.

The Montañeses' manager, Rafael Juarbe, said that since that historic day he has seen more young women practicing baseball than young men.

He also said the popular response to Quiles has been very encouraging. "Out of every 10 comments I receive, eight or nine are very positive," Juarbe said.

Quiles, however, is not a normal member of the team in every sense, since she uses the locker room all by herself and is never inside when one of her teammates is using that space.

But she stressed that her teammates have shown her a "great deal of respect."

According to Juarbe, Quiles was a standout player in many different sports as a young girl, including volleyball, basketball and baseball, and preferred to play against boys.

It was that desire to challenge herself that made her stronger physically and sharpened her skills.

After initially playing softball, Quiles made the switch to baseball 10 years ago and became a star for the Lobas de Arecibo of the island's Women's Baseball League and for the squad that represents Puerto Rico in international competitions.

It was while that latter team was preparing for the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto that a former manager and ex-first baseman for the Montañeses, Pedro "Rocky" Soto, watched Quiles practice and realized she had the ability to compete against members of the opposite sex.

He eventually showed her statistics in Puerto Rican league play to Juarbe, who organized a workout.

The manager was then so impressed by what he saw that he contacted the Puerto Rican Baseball Federation about having her approved to play in the Superior Double A Baseball League, that federation's top league.

That application was accepted a couple of months ago, but Quiles did not make her debut until Sunday because of an injury.

"Baseball is my passion. I was born for this. I've taken every experience as a challenge and as something that would benefit my sporting career," she said.

"When I'm on the street, people ask me if I'm the woman who plays baseball and that makes me feel good," said Quiles, who said other female athletes such as Luz Feliciano and Noelia de Jesus also have the level necessary to compete in the Superior Double A League.

jm/mc

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