Rae Tanori not taking hardball softly, big in stature with her baseball ambitions

Rae Tanori of Vail plays primarily at second base although she at times plays catcher (USA Baseball photo)

Raelynn “Rae” Tanori is in the sixth grade at Desert Sky Middle School, growing in size and stature as she tries to reach her potential as an athlete.

She will not let her youthful size and doubts of others hold her down from enjoying and succeeding in the sport she loves.

Nine years ago, when she was only 3, not too long after she started to become mobile, she knew what she wanted.

“My mom and dad coached my sister and my brother, and they started coaching me,” Tanori reasoned for the very early start to her development.

Her desire: Play on the diamond, hit the ball beyond the infield, make plays at second base with her glove and active arm.

She is a girl but softball is not her sport of choice.

It is baseball.

“I want to at least keep going into high school and play as long as I can,” the soft-spoken, yet stern Tanori said.

She may have the gentle voice of a young girl but her intense drive has her believing baseball has a place in her future.

She wore a baseball cap with a large MLB logo. Her t-shirt read: “MLB/USA Baseball ‘Trailblazer Series.'”

Rae Tanori spent four days at Vero Beach, Fla., working with USA Baseball coaches as part of MLB’s Trailblazer Series (USA Baseball photo)

The Trailblazer Series is MLB’s effort to diversify baseball for girls and women providing an annual development experience held appropriately in Jackie Robinson’s honor. The event is staged during the time of Robinson’s birthday on April 15 at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Fla.

Tanori was one of 96 girls from more than 20 states, Washington, D.C., and Canada, who participated in the four days of training experience with USA Baseball coaches.

“It is amazing to see her go as far as she has gone and meet people that are helping her along the way,” Rae’s mother Michelle Tanori said. “I couldn’t ask for better coaches than they have for the USA team to really inspire these girls to to keep going, that it’s going to be tough.

“They’re there for them. They hear stories like Mo’ne Davis and other girls going to the (Little League) World Series. They know that it is possible and who knows?”

Davis gained fame becoming the first girl to earn a win and throw a shutout in Little League World Series history in 2014 as part of the Newark National Little League team.

She is one of the coaches who participates in the Trailblazer Series.

The younger Tanori will be the starting second baseman for Rincon’s 12U Little League All-Star Team that can challenge to play in the Little League World Series at Williamsport, Pa. She has played for Rincon’s 10U and 11U teams in the last couple of years in addition to playing club baseball for the Vail Rebels.

Rae Tanori with Ball Girls Baseball Club coach Allie Lacey (Tanori photo)

Most of her playing experience is in Arizona although she is part of the California-based Ball Girls Baseball Club, a non-profit organization started in 2022 by Allie Lacey, who is a former Los Angeles Dodgers ball girl who once served as an assistant softball coach with Pasadena City College.

“(Ball Girls) was started because I love the game of baseball and I think girls should have the opportunity to play baseball as long as they can,” Lacey told Los Angeles CBS-TV affiliate KCAL. “All we wanted to do was give back. A lot of the girls are on the field individually. We just wanted to get them together. The confidence is there.”

The younger Tanori is one of the more than 70 girls who are part of the organization.

She was a member of the Ball Girls’ youth team that won a championship earlier this year in the Baseball for All Nationals Tournament at Mesa.

“Someone had mentioned that Rae was playing in Phoenix and the Ball Girls were looking for more girls to add to the team,” Michelle Tanori said. “So they reached out to us and I was like, ‘Yeah, we’ll go take a look.’ She started playing baseball with the girls. They play maybe five tournaments a year, big tournaments, including her being the one girl who plays with the boys team on teams across the country.”

Rae has the opportunity to particpate with one of the Ball Girls’ teams in August at Cooperstown, N.Y., in an event at the Baseball Hall of Fame’s All-Star Village.

That’s only if she and Rincon are not in Williamsport.

Her travels allow her to see different parts of the country and be around girls with similar ambitions.

She was one of 20 members of the Ball Girls who went to the Trailblazer Series at Vero Beach.

“Every day we would wake up, eat breakfast and go to a building,” the younger Tanori mentioned. “The first day we got to meet all the girls and then we got to go on teams. I did really well.”

It is natural for Rae Tanori to believe baseball (not softball) is her sport. She was raised on the sport, although her sister Bibiana went the softball route and is a member of Mica Mountain’s softball team that is competing in the 4A state playoffs. Her brother Mikey plays club baseball and will be a freshman at Mica Mountain next season.

Her cousins Devin and Diego Alvarez are Sahuarita High School grads who play baseball in college — Devin with the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Diego with Pima College.

“We’re not stopping her at this point; we’re just going to let it ride,” Michelle Tanori said of the approach she and her husband, Mike Sr., have with Rae’s baseball ambitions into her high school career.

Rae has unfortunately experienced others who do not have an open mind about a girl playing baseball with boys.

“We have run into some parents who say when we walk by, ‘Well, I guess they (the girls) think they can play,'” Michelle Tanori said. “We just kind of keep going because they’re parents and we’ve heard stuff like that before. We just let the girls do their thing and they come out and play well and change their minds.”

Rae said she is accepted by her teammates and coaches with baseball teams that have primarily boys, including Rincon Little League. That makes her feel more at ease and confident of her ability.

Observing her playing baseball for the first time last summer, it was obvious to this reporter that Rae not only fits in, she does not take a backseat in talent to her boy counterparts.

She carries an effective glove at second base and she can make contact with the ball — hard contact, driving in runs by lining hits to the outfield.

The Tanoris have invested in a batting cage in the backyard of their house and the fruits of Rae’s daily workouts are obvious when she swings the bat.

She also manages to be an honor student at Desert Sky despite the travel-ball and Little League demands and her daily training.

She may be small in size playing hardball as a sixth grader but she is large in stature with her family, teachers, coaches and teammates.

“It’s amazing because as a woman, you just don’t think a girl can go far in baseball but doors are opening for her,” Michelle Tanori said. “It’s awesome to see.”


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator in 2016 and is presently a special education teacher at Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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