When 9-year-old Marie Marcum was playing an MLB-licensed pitching game at a Chicago Chuck E. Cheese’s recently, she was ready to show off her mean skills — she had six years of softball under her belt, after all. But when Marcum missed a single throw, the game responded with a condescending taunt that she hadn’t expected.
“Well, there’s always softball,” an electronic voice mocked.
Infuriated by the response, Marcum played over and over again, throwing the rubber ball as hard as she could until her mom, Lisa Marcum intervened.
“She loves softball and is proud that she plays. She turned around after hearing that and looked so mad,” Lisa tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “She started angrily throwing the balls at the game.” The two shared their thoughts about the game to a Chuck E. Cheese’s employee, but Marie was still upset on the car ride home.
“I was mad because it made me feel like softball is a bad sport or it’s not good enough,” Marie tells Yahoo Lifestyle, adding that she’s played the game since age 4 and currently plays second base on the Plainfield Twisters softball team.
I’m usually not one to post rants like this, but Marie is pretty upset and has ASKED if she can write a letter to the…
Taking her mother’s suggestion, Marie instead turned her anger into action— and this time around, she wasn’t playing. “I decided to write the letter so they could change the game so that it was better,” she says.
The young athlete wrote a strongly worded letter to Major League Baseball (MLB), with some suggestions about how the professional sporting organization could make the arcade game more inclusive.
“It made it seem like baseball is better than [softball]. (It’s not.),” the Chicago native wrote on the Feb. 18 letter. “It made me feel that I wasn’t good enough… I hope that you can fix it somehow.”
Marcum’s hand-written note has since gone viral, garnering nearly 9,600 likes on ESPNW’s Instagram account.
Marie’s mother took to her personal Facebook to express her own disappointment with the sentiment from the MLB-licensed game, especially as a mother trying to raise a kid who is “proud to be a girl and eventually proud to be a woman.”
“It’s hard enough to be a female but it’s really sad that these messages start in places like this,” Lisa wrote. “She should have been having fun earning tickets by throwing the ball around (which she loves), but instead she is questioning why the sport she enjoys is used to tease people.”
Marie’s letter spoke volumes about the need for a more inclusive culture for both boys’ and girls’ athletics — and MLB took note.
“MLB does not support the message conveyed in the game and we are reaching out to the company to share our concerns about it,” a representative wrote in a statement released Feb. 20. “We love Marie’s passion for softball and her view that softball is just as great as baseball,” the statement to ESPNW read. “Through our PLAY BALL program, growing youth softball has remained a priority for MLB, equally as important as growing youth baseball.”
After the game manufacturer, Innovative Concepts in Entertainment (ICE), caught wind of Marie’s letter, its president Joe Coppola said the audio clip could be removed from the games if requested.
In the mean time, a Chuck E. Cheese’s representative muted the sound, telling ESPNW, “We’re thankful to Marie for bringing this to our attention and agree — play and sports are for everyone.” The chain reports that all Chuck E. Cheese’s stores will mute the sound on the ICE game until the audio is removed.
ICE did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.
After the volley between ICE, MLB and Chuck E. Cheese’s, Marie’s message has been heard loud and clear, making Lisa “one proud mama.”
“I just want her to realize that change can come from anywhere. This was something rather small, but the bottom line was that her words did this,” Lisa says. “I want her to remember that as she gets older. I just hope that this will help her to realize that everyone’s voice matters.”