She’d like to become the first girl to play on Jim Hughes Field and one day hopes to be the voice of the Cincinnati Reds.

Meet Joey Eckstein, 16, a soon-to-be junior at Franklin County High School.

Despite a litany of physical setbacks that most people are never forced to experience, Joey (Josephine) tried out for the high school baseball team this past spring and earned a spot on the Wildcat C team. As this is published, the teenager joins young girls from all over the world at the 6th annual Baseball for All Nationals at the Ripken Experience in Aberdeen, Maryland – the largest girls baseball tournament in US history.

“It’s been a long journey,” says the daughter of Pat and Nicky Eckstein and older sister to Jagger and Finley.

Hypermobility syndrome, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, complex regional pain syndrome, and scoliosis have affected her adversely throughout her young life and led to a pair of spinal fusion surgeries.

“The whole time, baseball is like what brought me back from my spinal fusions,” she says, adding “I can’t really describe it, I just have a love for it.”
From kindergarten through about fourth grade, Joey stuck with tee-ball softball but changed her mind when pitching came into play.

“Switching from tee ball to fast pitch was a big jump, so I switched over to baseball, fell in love with it and I’ve been playing ever since,” she explains.
About 10 at the time, her coach Paul Burton gave her some “homework” – go home and watch baseball on TV.

“I think it was the All-Star game, and I thought ‘this is pretty freakin’ cool,’” she adds. “Dad came home and started explaining (the game) to me.”

Thus, she credits her parents and Burton for her start in the sport and getting into the Reds.

“At first, the coaches kind of doubted me but as the season goes along, they were like ‘it doesn’t matter that you’re a girl, you’re actually pretty good,’” she relates. “If I haven’t played with some of the guys before, they kind of don’t want to toss with you. Later, they’re like ‘we’re not gonna’ hurt her if we throw a ball at her.’”

Starting with the FC rec league, Eckstein has moved on to Babe Ruth at the town park. She’s gotten to pitch some, one of the skills she honed at The Train Station – an indoor sports facility that recently opened in Sunman.

“She paid for pitching lessons with her own money and was in the building late every Saturday night once all the teams were gone, working on her own,” says owner Denny Sickinger. “She’s a sweet girl and very hard worker.”

Those lessons came from former Batesville High School standout and Class A pitcher for the Miami Marlins’ organization, Bryan Hoeing.

“I was going there twice a week and if I don’t have games, I get there about every weekend,” Eckstein adds.

Sickinger clued her in on the Baseball for All tourney, which concludes Thursday.

“We had started a GoFundMe because it was a lot of money to go,” says Eckstein. “It should be fun – I’ve never done anything like it before.”

Back in her hometown, Joey played sparingly for her high school squad, seeing some time at second base and the outfield.

“It wasn’t really awkward since I’ve been playing with them since 4th grade and going to school with them since kindergarten, so I’m pretty close with (teammates),” she notes. “I’m like one of the guys.”

She’s not into any other sports but enjoys playing saxophone in the marching band, participates in Spanish Club, Book Club, Youthquake and Future Business Leaders of America, and watches Netflix for fun.

Eckstein has developed an interest in broadcast journalism and dreams of filling a booth for Reds’ games. She’s been looking into Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida, which offers the Dan Patrick School of Sportscasting degree.

Meanwhile, her goal is to advance further in high school ball. According to her, there’s been only one other girl who suited up for FC in freshman baseball. She’s been told her chances of making the team next year are slim but isn’t deterred.

“I’m going to keep working and try again in the spring,” she says with determination.