Softball player creates new opportunities for young girls

Play Like Pi Foundation sponsors girls to play softball

Sophomore+Pi+Stephenson+catches+a+softball.+Stephenson+started+a+foundation+to+sponsor+girls+who+can%E2%80%99t+afford+to+purchase+the+expensive+gear+needed+to+play+the+sport.+

Photo courtesy of Darwin Stephenson

Sophomore Pi Stephenson catches a softball. Stephenson started a foundation to sponsor girls who can’t afford to purchase the expensive gear needed to play the sport.

By Sophia Liu, California High School - CA

Girls who have dreamed about playing softball locally can now discover their full potential thanks to Cal High sophomore Pi Stephenson’s Play Like Pi Foundation.
Founded by Stephenson last October, the Play Like Pi Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides disadvantaged young girls the chance to play softball.
“My goal is to be able to get more young girls out there to play softball, and to let them experience being able to play sports in general,” Stephenson said.
The foundation operates by raising funds to pay for the softball scholarships and gear that some girls who wish to play can’t afford. Currently, Stephenson is coaching softball for two girls to help make a difference. One of these girls is a Twin Creeks Elementary School student, 11-year-old Neesu Girdhar.
“I remember at the beginning that I was nervous [Stephenson] was going to be strict,” Girdhar said. “But we had more lessons after that and now Fridays are my favorite day to just come home after school, go out onto the field, and start playing softball with her.”
The inspiration for Play Like Pi came to Stephenson a year ago when she was playing at a softball showcase tournament for university coaches in Arizona. Her three cousins, Jimena, Cecilia and Sahara Jimenez, who were also with Stephenson at the tournament, were inspired by her skills and athleticism on the field.
“We want to play like Pi!” all three girls said.
But Stephenson’s cousins were soon dismayed by the cost of the various softball equipment and gear, such as helmets and cleats, that are required for beginners.
“I think it was that personal connection to [Stephenson’s cousins] that made her realize that if these are just a couple of girls who can’t play, there’s probably like, hundreds of girls, if not more, across the country who are in the same situation,” Stephenson’s father, Darwin Stephenson, said.
The staggering sum of the equipment and lessons almost led Stephenson’s cousins to abandon their hopes of playing. That was when Pi and her family decided to step in.
“It was over $3,000 for the cheapest gear that you could buy at your local sporting goods store and they weren’t able to afford it,” Stephenson said. “So my family decided to sponsor them so my cousins could play softball.”
Since the establishment of the Play Like Pi Foundation, Stephenson has created a GoFundMe page dedicated to raising funds for the campaign, which Darwin Stephenson manages. Additionally, Stephenson is working to secure a sponsorship from Dick’s Sporting Goods. If successful, this would provide substantial funding for Stephenson’s campaign.
“We submitted an application to be able to get sponsored by them and so far they’re on board with our idea,” Stephenson said. “It’s just going to take around one to two months for them to officially take action regarding our cause.”
Although she is just getting the Play Like Pi Foundation started for the time being, Stephenson and her family are anticipating more funding and donations by next year.
“I just started this company, so there’s not a huge amount of accomplishments as of now,” Stephenson said. “However, from now until February is when we’re going to really start pushing in on donations.”
Cal sophomore Armaan Golchin was not surprised to hear that her friend had created an organization to help disadvantaged girls play softball. She believes that the Play Like Pi Foundation has great promise.
“Pi’s always been a very caring friend and person,” Golchin said. “She’s also very smart and successful […] she’s always on a schedule and always knows what to do next. So I think that will make her organization a successful one.”
Stephenson’s softball coaches also expressed pride and admiration for Stephenson’s endeavors.
“It’s great that she cares about and wants to help people,” said Brett Thomas, Stephenson’s catching coach. “It shows that she’s seen what softball’s done for her own life and doesn’t want anybody else to miss out on that, should they want the opportunity.”
Alfonso Garcia, a former Major League Baseball player and Stephenson’s batting coach, agrees.
“You have to have a good heart to do this kind of thing,” Garcia said. “It’s not something easy to do, so I commend her for even trying to do that, and I genuinely think she’ll do a very good job.”
Stephenson said she welcomes others to approach her at any time to discuss the work she’s doing or future steps her organization is taking.
“Recently, I’ve been to a lot of PGF [Premier Girls FastPitch] showcases,” Stephenson said. “I’ve also been to a lot of other tournaments nationwide this year. So if anyone wants to come and talk to me about my work and ways to help, they can find me at any of my events posted on my website, which is playlikepi.org.”
In the future, Stephenson plans to lead her foundation long-term, throughout her high school and college careers. She aims to build Play Like Pi so it’s a bigger and more efficient organization, capable of providing support for a diverse group of people from different backgrounds.
She’s determined to help make a difference for as long as she continues to play softball.
“In the future, I see this foundation to be bigger than it is now, obviously,” Stephenson said. “And I hope to be known in the softball community so that if anybody needs help or support, they can come to me and I’m able to help them […] I think that’s the most important goal that I’m trying to achieve.”

This story was originally published on The Californian on November 18, 2022.