Photo via France 24
Two summers ago, French teen Melissa Mayeux, then a shortstop on the French U-18 junior national team, made history when she became the first known female baseball player added to MLB's international registration list, making her eligible to be signed by a Major League organization.
Since then, the 18-year-old shortstop has been playing baseball in France. Mayeux has had the opportunity to work with several former Major Leaguers, including two-time All-Star Steve Finley and Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, at MLB's international baseball development camps. Currently, she plays with the Cougars de Montigny in Paris, alongside her older brother, Dylan. Mayeux will soon be switching gears, but she's staying on the diamond. On August 28, Mayeux will begin school at Miami Dade College, a two-year school in South Florida, on a softball scholarship.
Mayeux has only played softball twice before, both times as a teenager for France at the senior European Championships, where she says she hit around .500.
"The ball does come faster," Mayeux says. "But I didn't have any problems hitting the ball."
Gina De Aguero, head softball coach at Miami Dade, has only seen video of Mayeux on a baseball diamond, but isn't worried about her new player making the transition, especially since Mayeux will have the entire fall practice schedule to prepare for Miami Dade's spring softball season.
"She has great hands, and if you can cover ground on the bigger field, you can cover ground on the softball field," said De Aguero. "She runs those bases, so she'll be fine with ours. If she can swing a heavier baseball bat, she'll do well with a softball bat. And she doesn't have an old-school baseball swing. Rather than swinging slightly up, Melissa stays linear through the hitting zone, which will make it much easier to make the transition to softball."
Though Mayeux did speak with several collegiate baseball coaches in the United States, no scholarship offers materialized. While certainly not the norm, under NCAA rules, a men's team can in fact give a scholarship to a woman. And while there is no college baseball precedent at the Division I level, Sarah Hudek, the daughter of former big league pitcher John Hudek, received a scholarship to pitch at Bossier Parish Community College in Louisiana in 2015. After a year there, she transferred to Texas A&M, where she is now on a softball scholarship, and she hit .291/.384/.468 as the Aggies' starting right fielder in 2017. Unlike Hudek, Mayeux did not have the luxury of college baseball coaches -- even at the JuCo level -- being able to see her play baseball, so she has instead set some softball goals.
"I want to play in Miami and then move to a big university like Florida or Texas A&M," said Mayeux. "I want to make the College World Series and I would love to play professionally if possible."
Larkin, who coached Mayeux four years in a row, most recently in November 2016, has seen her ability to make adjustments firsthand. When they first worked together, Mayeux was a 13-year-old, dominating on a boy's team. But as the boys aged and got stronger as compared to Mayeux, it wasn't as easy.
"I pulled her aside and told her about the realism of what was happening and how she couldn't try to go stronger and harder to compete, because she was always going to be smaller," said Larkin. "She had to compete with the boys with her mindset, with being smarter and being more fundamentally and technically sound. She took to that and then she was outstanding again."
Larkin agrees that Mayeux's short, compact swing will serve her well on the softball field, but he also believes she can continue her baseball career.
"I think she can be a baseball player," said Larkin. "Obviously, it's all relative to the level ... I have a lot of respect for Melissa. She is a great athlete and has done a fantastic job to date."
For the moment, Mayeux is working in a restaurant in the beach town of Le Barcares on the Mediterranean during the week. Each weekend, she flies to Paris to play with the Cougars. She expects to have her American visa in hand by mid-August and will then be ready to begin classes, and her softball career, at Miami Dade.
"I am coming to the United States to see what I can do, with softball and baseball," she said. "If I have an opportunity for baseball, I would take it."
Lindsay Berra has covered a variety of sports, from baseball and hockey to tennis and the Olympics, since 1999. She joined MLB.com in 2013. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.