Former Florida All-American pitcher and professional softball player Aleshia Ocasio was traded recently from the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league to the USSSA Pride in her home state of Florida. Ocasio’s move to the Pride comes at a dynamic time in softball, when the new independent league Athletes Unlimited provides a new structure for women softball to earn a living, and as the sport is made to face a reckoning during this summer’s renewed calls to attention towards the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.
On June 22, the general manager of the Scrap Yard Dawgs posted a now-deleted tweet from the team’s official Twitter account. The tweet sent by Connie May had denigrated Colin Kaepernick and countless other athletes’ protesting of police brutality against Black people by taking a knee during the pregame national anthem ceremony.
In the fallout of May’s tweet, the Scrap Yard Dawgs disbanded and have since formed their own team called This Is Us after publicly disavowing their GM’s tweets on social media. According to former Scrap Yard player Kiki Stokes, who was the only Black player in the locker room on the day the tweet was sent out, May had refused to account for her actions or acknowledge the pain her words had caused. While not a member of the team, Ocasio posted a photo of herself with a raised fist to Instagram, in solidarity with This Is Us and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I’m able to pave the way for younger athletes who might not have had somebody to look up to who look like them, who experienced the same culture,” Ocasio said, speaking with Chicago Tribune’s Juan Pimiento. Coming from Black and Puerto Rican parents, she’s cognizant of a younger generation of players looking up to her and what it means to have a platform in the sport.
“As a Black woman, as someone who’s also LGBTQ, I just try my best to stay educated on the topic and I know what’s going on, and if people ask then I’m doing my due diligence and being somebody who can also educate others who don’t know what’s going on,” she said in a video interview with Softball America’s Kayla Lombardo about the systemic injustices and racism both within softball and in America more broadly. “More times than not, our Black softball players are getting hit with micro-aggressions. I was on a call with some other Black softball players and they were telling me their stories and it’s just crazy to hear the different things that go on that people don’t even know. So I challenge the softball community the differences and covert and overt [racism] and challenge their implicit biases and unlearn those things.”
Speaking with the Chicago Tribune, Aleshia describes how her sexual identity also plays into how she views social injustices. “The biggest problems came from me understanding myself and me kind of living out my own truths. I’ve always been blessed to have a support system who loved me no matter my sexual preference. I’ve just had so much support. That doesn’t take away from all the injustices and all the different things that are going on around the world. There’s still so many different countries who don’t allow same-sex marriage, who don’t support LGBTQ. So, luckily I haven’t had those experiences just yet. I haven’t experienced a lot of those legalities with being an adult and being kind of a minority in the LGBT community.”
Aleshia is engaged to out WNBA player Natasha Cloud, who recently became the first woman to sign a sneaker deal with Converse. You can follow Aleshia on Instagram, and catch her playing in Athletes Unlimited’s inaugural softball season starting next month.