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Padecky: Petaluma grad knows what it’s like to kick down doors in sports

For those who think women should stay in their lane and mind their own female business, well, those folks are not going to be happy about this. No, no, they think this is rude and that women are wasting their time and energy entering The Club.

In sports, we all know about The Club. Men Only. In The Club men grab the headlines, make the most cash, get the real-money endorsements. In The Club, men govern men, men coach men, men take advice and criticism from other men. Men and only men know what men want and need. Men can cuss and scratch themselves and slap butts and no one would dare have The Club invaded by women who A) don’t know what it’s like to be a real man B) collapse under pressure C) cry if they don’t get their way D) have no clue about big-time competition E) ain’t slapping my butt.

Well, well, mercy me, lookie what we have here. Kim Ng is the first woman to be a general manager of an MLB team, the Miami Marlins. Callie Bronson is the first woman to be a game-day coach in the NFL, working with the Cleveland Browns’ tight ends. Alyssa Nakken is the first woman to coach in MLB history; Alyssa threw batting practice and hit fungoes for the San Francisco Giants.

All this happened in 2020.

Jordy Baddeley knows the buzz.

“I like proving people wrong,” Baddeley said. “I felt honored to be a role model.”

In 2009, Baddeley was the placekicker on Petaluma High School’s football team, the one that went 12-1 and made it to the North Coast Section semifinals. The memory of that year surfaced again last weekend when Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller became the woman to play for a Power Five university, thumping a second-half kickoff against Missouri.

It is no trivial accomplishment. Vanderbilt plays in the SEC and there are about five teams in the SEC right now who could beat the New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars and, if Derek Carr can’t hold on to the football, the Las Vegas Raiders.

In 2009, Baddeley entered The Club, one populated by teenage boys. Memories of that experience for her flow like water at summertime Yosemite. A sweet memory was during the postgame handshake-head nod-good game salutations, when opposing teams would meet at midfield. Good ol’ No. 6 would pass a guy and then hear something that made her smile.

“Hey, dude, I think that was a chick back there,” Baddeley heard.

Sometimes it wasn’t how she looked.

“Sometimes it was the faint scent of perfume,” said Baddeley, now 28 and training to be a physician’s assistant at UC Davis.

Yes, it’s true. You read it here first ― a placekicker on a football team wore Chanel No. 5. Actually, I don’t know if Baddeley wore Chanel. I’m guessing. I whiffed. Never before had I asked a football player what perfume he wore. Somehow I don’t think Ronnie Lott would have taken it well. Terrell Owens would have stuffed me like an envelope. Didn’t occur to me.

I did ask her about being a teenage girl in a locker room among 50 or so teenage boys. The age, as anyone who’s been through it, it fraught with land mines. Self-control is not among the many fine qualities adolescents possess. Impulsiveness is a character trait. Snapping a towel at the backside of an unsuspecting teammate is considered high humor.

That never occurred. Baddeley dressed in the locker room with the boys but at the far end, in private. She never wandered through the locker room before the game. She just waited for the call to hit the field. Home games would mean a shower at home. Away games would mean a shower at a time mutually exclusive to both genders.

“I gave them their dignity,” she said.

And they, hers.

“I was never really uncomfortable,” Baddeley said. “Well, maybe one time.”

Baddeley was introduced by then-head coach Steve Ellison to the team as the Trojans’ placekicker. Baddeley had a lot of friends on the team but still the subject came up ... sexual sensitivity awareness.

You may begin to squirm now. Baddeley certainly did. Any teenager will look for a trapdoor to escape while his/her parents begin the birds-and-the-bees discussion. That is, if a parent can gather the courage to give that talk.

Try listening to that talk with 50 boys in the room, all of them looking for the trapdoor.

While it’s fair to say a teenage boy’s testosterone can be jet fuel to a kid with idle thoughts, in this case, in that season, the message of mutual respect was delivered and accepted without bristle. The city of Petaluma, even with 59,000 people, is still a small town and whispers travel faster than electricity. No one in Petaluma, whether young or old, wants to be smeared with gossip they might never towel off.

For a female to enter The Club with a minimum of fuss, it would help to have a wrangler to rope in all those flighty emotions. For Baddeley, her wrangler was the now-retired Ellison, a coach so respected that even today, 11 years after his last game, his name is uttered in these parts with genuine affection. He was the perfect coach for a touchy moment.

How perfect? Baddeley asked Ellison to be the officiant at her wedding Sept. 20.

“It was the only time I was an officiant,” Ellison said. He thinks it also may be the last time. He did it as a favor to the family that he’s known for years.

He also did it as a favor to Jordy. He had no doubt of her performance back in 2009. Baddeley that year never kicked a field goal. The Trojans never worried about field goals. They scored 438 points. She did make 16 of 17 extra points.

“But I can tell you Jordy would have had a longer kickoff than Sarah Fuller had Saturday,” Ellison said.

Ellison could also tell you his team beat the groom’s football team in 2009. Jaden Rosselli and Santa Rosa lost to the Trojans, 27-0. Apparently the groom forgave the bride, but an occasional “27-0!” might be blurted out.

Quite obviously, Jaden Rosselli has no problem with a female on a football team. By now he’s heard all the stories from his wife on how she was approached after games by little girls asking for her autograph.

“I had a lot of support,” Baddeley said. She meant from both males and females. Without saying it, she also meant people shook off any stereotype of what she could or couldn’t do. She was perfectly comfortable and able to buck any cold crosswind.

“I’m a fairly confident person,” Baddeley said. “I guess you had to be in that situation. You had to be independent.”

That was Jordy Baddeley in 2009, and Sarah Fuller on Saturday, and Alyssa Nakken, Kim Ng and Callie Brownson this year. They all recognize gender bias. They all know it’s the whisper followed by a head shake.

“I think it will always be there,” Baddeley said. “There always be a stigma.”

The Club, however, should notice the Marlins and the Giants and Browns have not gone to seed. The Club should notice the SEC is still the NFL’s best farm system, that Petaluma High School in 2009 played to a high standard and it had nothing to do with football.

Gender bias, meet your true opponents, and there are only two of them: Fairness and respect. It’s not complicated. In fact, it’s simpler than that.

Women want a seat at the table. That’s all. Doesn’t seem like a lot to ask.

To comment write to bobpadecky@gmail.com.

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