Farragut junior Bella DeMateo proving she belongs on baseball field

Bella DeMateo has settled in as the Admirals’ starting third baseman and closer. The best part? Right next to her at shortstop is her freshman brother, Ben.

SHARE Farragut junior Bella DeMateo proving she belongs on baseball field
Farragut’s Bella DeMateo (3) pitches against Ag. Science.

Farragut’s Bella DeMateo (3) pitches against Ag. Science.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Farragut junior Bella DeMateo tried playing softball.

‘‘I never really felt the connection,’’ she said.

Baseball? That’s another story.

DeMateo has been playing travel ball for the Urban Warriors, the Little Village-based program founded in 2016 by Farragut assistant coach Rey Raigoza.

But high school baseball wasn’t initially in the equation for DeMateo, who spent her first two years at Lane. The lengthy commute from Little Village to the Northwest Side made the idea of playing sports unworkable.

La Voz Sidebar

Lea este artículo en español en La Voz Chicago, la sección bilingüe del Sun-Times.
la-voz-cover-photo-2.png

But then she transferred to Farragut. She came out to some of the Admirals’ boys 16-inch softball games last fall, then showed up at baseball workouts this spring.

‘‘As soon as she came out to a practice, I said, ‘OK, she can play, for sure,’ ’’ Farragut coach Cary Bolnick said.

DeMateo has settled in as the Admirals’ starting third baseman and closer. The best part? Right next to her at shortstop is her freshman brother, Ben.

Though the siblings have grown up playing baseball, they rarely have been teammates because of the age difference.

Ben, already one of Farragut’s top hitters and pitchers, can’t imagine a better introduction to high school baseball than suiting up alongside his sister.

‘‘It’s really fun playing with her,’’ he said.

The feeling is mutual.

‘‘I think it’s really fun,’’ Bella said. ‘‘We both know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.’’

If anyone is surprised to see a girl starting on a high school baseball team, they shouldn’t be, Ben said.

‘‘She’s definitely developed a lot,’’ he said.

Bella shrugs off the attention she receives as a girl playing what traditionally has been a boys sport.

‘‘Almost every game I have people comment,’’ she said. ‘‘I just enjoy playing. I love baseball.’’

She played some softball before coming back to baseball this spring and still is adjusting, especially moving from the circle to the mound.

‘‘I definitely look forward to strengthening my pitching,’’ said Bella, who also has played for the Cubs RBI softball program. ‘‘Obviously, softball pitching is different from baseball pitching.’’

Farragut’s Ben DeMateo (4) bats against Ag. Science.

Farragut’s Ben DeMateo (4) bats against Ag. Science.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Playing third base in baseball ‘‘is also very different from softball,’’ Bella said. ‘‘I feel like I’m more confident with it.’’

The DeMateos are part of a new breed of players at Farragut.

‘‘For a long time, it was kids who had never played,’’ Bolnick said.

That made it hard to build a program, especially at a school whose current enrollment is 598.

But much has changed. The Urban Warriors have 9-and-under, 13-and-under and 17-and-under travel teams, allowing neighborhood kids to grow up learning the game together. Most of Farragut’s players reside in a 10-block radius, which creates close bonds.

Bella wouldn’t have it any other way.

‘‘I definitely think that going to a community school like this, we can relate to each other on different levels,’’ she said. ‘‘We all have each others’ backs, on and off the field.’’

The Latest
“I feel like I [have his support], but I don’t really focus on that,” Grifol said. “I’m the manager right now. And I’ll do it for as long as they want me to do this.”
Albert Ruddy produced more than 30 movies, from the “Godfather” and “Million Dollar Baby” to “Cannonball Run II” and “Megaforce,” nominees for Golden Raspberry awards for worst movie of the year.