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Letter from 9-year-old softball player prompts change to sexist video game

This young softball player is as good with a pen and paper as she is with a bat and ball.
/ Source: TODAY

Nine-year-old softball player Marie Marcum was at a Chuck E. Cheese's last week when a Major League Baseball-licensed video game taunted her with a wisecrack about her favorite sport.

"Hey, there's always softball!" the game quipped after she missed a target with a rubber ball.

Marie Marcum, a 9-year-old softball player from Illinois, successfully had a baseball video game muted at Chuck E. Cheese's after writing a letter about its sexist comment. Lisa Marcum

Irked by the comment, the second baseman from suburban Chicago showed she is as formidable with a pen and paper as she is with a bat and a ball. Marcum wrote a letter to the maker of the game and MLB that resulted in the sexist comment being immediately muted and the audio clip being removed.

"She was quite angry,'' Marie's mother, Lisa Marcum, told TODAY. "(The letter) shows she can make a difference. That's what I'm hoping she can take away from it."

Marie was at a fund-raiser for her elementary school when she noticed the comment from the game made by Innovative Concepts in Entertainment (ICE). She initially talked to an employee about it, who referred her to ICE as the maker of the game.

The throwing game taunted players who missed the target with a comment of, "Hey, there's always softball!" Lisa Marcum

She sat down at the family kitchen table on Feb. 18 and decided to write a letter, which her mother, who is a high school teacher, initially posted on Facebook before making it private.

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"It made it seem like baseball was better,'' she wrote about the video game's taunt. "It was trying to say if you missed, you should go play softball. It made me feel that I wasn't good enough."

Marie's letter to Major League Baseball and the video game's creator prompted a change to the game. Lisa Marcum

The fourth-grader also noted that her 4-year-old cousin is getting into sports and she is trying to convince her to play softball.

"If she played that (video) game, she probably wouldn't want to play (softball),'' Marie wrote.

ICE president Joe Coppola told ESPN that he understood Marie's complaint and the company would remove the audio clip if anyone requests it. Chuck E. Cheese's also noted the sound would be muted on the game at all of its locations until the game is updated to remove the audio.

"We're thankful to Marie for bringing this to our attention and agree – play and sports are for everyone,'' Chuck E. Cheese's said in a statement to TODAY. "We reached out to the manufacturer and asked that the sound be updated to support everyone’s love of play. Until then, we are muting its sound at all of our stores."

Major League Baseball, whose licensing agreement with ICE expired in 2011, disagreed with the video game's taunt and reiterated its support for youth softball initiatives.

"MLB does not support the message conveyed in the game and we have reached out to the company to share our concerns about it,'' MLB said in its statement to TODAY. "We love Marie's passion for softball and share her view that softball is just as great as baseball. Upon receiving her letter, we intend to respond to the family with some ideas we have to celebrate Marie's love for softball."

Marie has been playing softball since she's been in first grade, and her favorite position is second base. Lisa Marcum

"I'm glad (MLB and ICE) were so awesome and proactive about it,'' Lisa Marcum said. "As soon as they heard about it, they worked to fix it. We were just hoping to get any kind of response."

Marie also got a surprise over the weekend when members of the Chicago Bandits, a women's professional softball team, joined her Plainfield Twisters team at a practice in Joliet after reading her letter.

General manager Toni Calmeyn, outfielder Brenna Moss, head coach Lauren Lappin and the team's mascot, Swiper, all paid the girls a visit. The team also invited Marie to throw out the first pitch at a game this season.

"Marie was just so happy with the response, saying, 'They took the sound out because I wrote my letter,''' her mother said. "I'm trying to let her know that it's important for people to speak up."