For transgender baseball player from New Roads, sports help make him ‘one of the guys’


BP Photo by Hannah Jannol

SWING: Jake Hofheimer batted and junior Alex Silberstein caught for the Firehawks as New Roads defeated Shalhevet 7 – 2 in Santa Monica April 13.

By Hannah Jannol, Arts & Culture Editor

A New Roads batter stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the fifth inning at a Shalhevet-New Roads game April 13. Firehawk pitcher Asher Remer pitched the ball across the field to him, and the New Roads batter swung the metal bat and was struck out. He was out, but a teammate high-fived him as he trotted back to the bench and others hollered a job well done.

Seemingly an ordinary scene in a baseball game, and yet it was not.  The batter, junior Jake Hofheimer, is one of the first transgender players on a high school sports team.

Born a girl, Jake self-identifies as a male and his story had been profiled by Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke the same week.  One person who read the profile was Firehawk baseball captain Micah Gill.  Micah was moved by the story and wanted to contribute something positive.

“I just immediately thought that if I, on behalf of Shalhevet school, on behalf of the baseball team, could do anything that I could to make him feel as comfortable as possible, I thought that writing a quick e-mail was the least that we could do,” Micah said later. “Because I think that what he’s doing is so important for not only the LGBT community but for the broader community.”

On the morning of the game, General Studies Principal Mr. Daniel Weslow forwarded Micah’s e-mail to Ryan Hawley and Matt Steinhaus, Assistant Head of School and Athletic Director at New Roads respectively.

In the e-mail, Micah applauded New Roads for its support of Jake.

“My teammates and I saw the LA Times article earlier this week,” Micah wrote, “and we immediately felt a sense of pride that we are able to play a role (however small of a role it may be) in history.”

He also spoke briefly to the team before the game about how to behave, reminding them to treat Jake as they would any other player and to pitch to him as they would pitch to anyone else.

“I admire that kind of leadership,” said sophomore Eli Helfand, “Every team needs a captain to step up and be the leader, and Micah came through.”

Despite the uniqueness of the opposing team, the game was nothing out of the blue. Though the Firehawks beat New Roads last year, this year they lost to the Jaguars 7-2, due to poor offense, according to team captain Micah Gill.

Jake himself was just Jaguar No. 7, which is why he likes sports so much.

“This team’s been really supportive, they treat me like one of the guys,” Jake told The Boiling Point in an interview. “We have all the banter together and they don’t act any differently around me than with any other guys on the team.”

He said skiing and snowboarding have been his favorite sports since childhood, because of their gender-concealing gear.

“For me, at least with ski and snowboarding no one can tell your gender,” Jake said. “So when I was younger I always wore all the guys’ stuff so everyone would think I was a guy on the mountain,”

Sports have not been Jake’s only ally in his transition. Having attended Temple Israel of Hollywood since childhood, Jake said Rabbi Jocee Hudson, one of the first openly lesbian rabbis in Los Angeles, and the Jewish community at TIOH have helped him transition.

During the game, Mrs. Lisa Hofheimer, Jake’s mom–who watched the game–mentioned how supportive the New Roads and Temple Israel community had been.

Mrs. Hofheimer added that she had heard about Shalhevet’s reconciliation with Glendale Adventist Academy after anti-semitic gestures were made at a flag football game, and how she admired Shalhevet’s straightforward discussion.

“If we can engender that sort of open discourse, it creates a space for kids to learn, and for them to have conversations with one another, and to have reconciliation,” Mrs. Hofheimer said.