Amaris Candelaria is a fixture in the Magdelana Steers’ dugout and she’s got plans to play high school baseball.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain photos

Amaris Candelaria throws like a girl, and boys her age could, too, if they threw harder. That’s why the Magdalena fifth grader is headed to the all-girls Baseball for All National Tournament in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, later this month.

Starting at high noon on Sunday, it looked like most of Magdalena would turn out at the lot across from the Steer Stop alongside Highway 60 for a lunch/dinner fundraiser to help Candelaria make her trip.

Candeleria is excited about going to the tournament, and she brings a load of experience playing on an all-girls team from Arizona while also holding down starting pitching and second-base positions on a 12-and-under boys team. Amaris is the only girl on the squad.

She comes by her baseball skills honestly, as her father, Kyl, is the Steers’ head baseball coach. Amaris has been around baseball her entire life. When the varsity is warming up, and someone needs a catching partner, there’s no hesitation for her to step on the field and help.

“I have played baseball since I was three or four years old. I tried playing softball, but it’s too slow for me,” Candelaria said.

Amaris has faced having to prove herself, and she’s battled against the adversity of young boys who think girls should be playing softball and not baseball. The easiest way to get respect is  to take the mound and issue passes back to the bench via strikeouts.

Amaris Candelaria enjoys a game of catch during the community fundraiser to help send her to the national tournament.

“She’s not a girl. She’s a ballplayer. That’s how we look at her – she’s a ballplayer, and she is in our starting rotation. This year, her family had to take a trip, which hurt us without her,” coach Victor Torrez said. “We ended up finishing second at state. She’s the best girl I’ve ever seen in my 10 years of coaching baseball.”

As her boy’s coach is singing her praises, Amaris and her older brother Josiah square off between nearby parked pickup trucks and start a game of catch. As an eighth grader this season, Josiah went 7-0 with a 1.72 ERA as the Steers went 13-4 and 6-0 in District 1-1A, and his sister was there every step of the way, helping in the dugout.

The game of catch speeds up as the two warm up, and the popping sound made by Josiah’s glove speaks of the heat Amaris can bring. Like any older brother who refuses to be shown up, he returns the ball with some pep.

While she’s yet to strike her brother out, Amaris is known to give varsity players grief if they think they need to lob her a baseball.

Meanwhile, the line in front of the Los Garcias Authentic New Mexican food truck gets deeper as community members keep lining up to buy a carne asada taco plate, chile cheese fries, taco burgers, and more.

What is Amaris looking forward to the most during the tournament?

“Getting to play with girls. I’m also looking forward to meeting new people and maybe learning some new things while there,” she said.

Following the event, her father reached out to thank those who attended.

“We had an amazing day today. We had an outpouring of love and support from our community and amazing friends who came to Magdalena to support Amaris and our family. We thank you all for everything. It was great to see so many friends and family that we hadn’t seen in a while. We love and appreciate you more than you know!

“Amaris will definitely make you proud,” Kyl Candelaria said.

There’s no telling what the future holds for Amaris when it comes to baseball, but there’s one thing for certain — she plans to pitch for the Steers.

“I love playing baseball and I like being out there enjoying the game,” Amaris said.

Does she get a little satisfaction after striking out a boy who thinks he can out play a girl?

“Yes, yes I do,” she said.