Gianna Kasper knows what you think: she's a girl, so she should play softball, but the 15 year-old is only interested in playing baseball.
"I do not like softball," Gianna says. "I've always been with baseball, my whole life, and it hasn't been softball just because baseball is more of a challenge, and I'd rather be challenged."
"She would never play softball," adds Gianna's mom Adrienne. "She's only ever wanted to play baseball, and that's all she's ever going to play."
Last month, that determined attitude led Gianna to tryouts for the Downers Grove South freshman baseball team. She was the only girl who tried out, but that's not the only reason she stood out to head coach Brett Wolf.
"Right away, we noticed Gianna had a high IQ for the game," Wolf says. "She's athletic, she knows how to field her spot -- she really just fit right in with the rest of the team."
Not long after tryouts ended, Gianna got good news. She'd become the first girl in school history to make any of its baseball teams.
"I was actually taking a test when I got the email from my coach," she remembers. "I was going crazy in my head, but I was also taking a test, so I had to focus on taking the rest. And then once I finished the test, I ran downstairs and started crying and told my mom," Gianna adds.
How did Adrienne feel?
"I don't even know if proud is a big enough word for me," she says. "I beam with pride."
Gianna plays second base for the Mustangs, usually coming off the bench, and she's helped them get off to a 10-2 start. And each time she takes the field, she's doing what she loves while remembering the person who fostered that love: her late father, Tony.
"We were best friends, and we still are," Gianna says. "He brought my attention to every sport he possibly could."
The two shared a special bond over baseball, built by playing catch in the backyard and trips to Cubs games. Tony died of a heart attack in August of 2019, but Gianna still feels his presence around the diamond.
"Every time I step foot on the field, I think about him," she says. "Every play I make. Every second of the day, I'm thinking about him and how proud he would be of me."
"I've had coaches that she's played for in the past say her form is just fantastic," Adrienne says. "He taught her all that. So I'm thrilled she had the time that she had with him, and she had the memories she has, [and] that he instilled this in her."
Gianna's dream is to continue playing baseball, even into college, where she hopes to play on a Division I team. She knows it won't be easy, but she's ready for the challenge.
"It's going to be hard, but it's okay, because literally anyone can do anything as long as you put your mind to it," she says.