It’s always been the case that women have been conspicuously absent from the world of baseball. From the lack of female players on the field to the fact that female baseball writers are few and far between, women have simply not played a role in the development of the sport, despite the fact that many consider baseball to be America’s past-time.

Gianni DiMeglio

Data shows that school-aged girls are simply not given the same opportunities to play baseball as boys.

So where are all of the women, and why does this gender division exist? Journalist Julien Assouline, of Hardball Times, sought to answer these questions in a fascinating and well-researched article that was published today on the Hardball Times website. Apparently, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has been conducting annual surveys regarding the number of boys versus girls who play different sports in high school since the 1969-1970 school year, and the numbers from these studies are nothing short of shocking.

Essentially, Assouline found, the data shows that since 1977, the percentage of high school-aged female athletes who participate in the sport of baseball has only ever hovered around 0.0003 percent and has never risen above 1 percent. Compare these numbers to the data pool about boys who play high school baseball, which always has and still accounts for roughly 12 percent of adolescent male athletes, and it becomes even more glaringly obvious that women are all but missing from the sport of baseball. How can this be? The answer to this question is simple – women do not play baseball because they are consistently funneled into playing softball, instead.

In fact, if you compare the number of women who play softball to the number of men who play baseball, females outnumber males – so why do we even have two different gender-specific variations on the same game? It seems that this problem is rooted mostly in an institutional opinion that baseball is unsuitable for women – and I believe that this kind of outdated thinking has no place in 2016.

Quite simply, leveling the playing field – both figuratively and literally – means giving boys and girls the same athletic opportunities in school and allowing them to decide for themselves which sports to pursue. Hopefully, the next time someone writes a comprehensive report on the stats of men and women in baseball, the numbers will be different – but only time will tell.