She is no shorter, no skinnier, no weaker, no shyer. She does not worry that a hook slide will ruin her nail polish. She doesn't suddenly start knitting at third base. She doesn't even "throw like a girl."

She is Carlyn Rutter, the 10-year-old second baseman for the Bailey's Crossroads Giants. This is her third season in Little League Baseball. She is part of the wave of girls who are playing for the first time, and now that some of the sexist smoke has cleared, she is one of only a few girls to have struck it out.

If women many times her age are finding that they are still expected to get the boss his coffee, Carlyn is finding some form of "liberation" in the Little League. She is being judged like everyone else, and is asked simply to do her best.

"I like it," says the girl her parents call Squirt. "I don't feel weird or anything. I just can't believe how mean it was not to let girls play before. I'm just as good as the other people."

The Little League barricade was one of the toughest for females to overcome when they first gave it a serious try in the early '70s. Resistance was widespread, and it varied from lawsuits to absurdities.

A man in Michigan won the All-Time Ridiculous award in 1973. He forced a girl off a local team by pointing out that she had violated regulations.She hadn't worn an athletic supporter one Saturday.

In the Washington area, though, change has come relatively calmly. Girls first played Little League Baseball here four seasons ago. This spring, of about 4,000 youngsters active in area leagues, about 200 are girls.

If individual girls don't return for several seasons as Carlyn Rutter has, the reason tends to be sexlessly familiar. Their managers don't give them enough playing time, so they lose interest.

Not so Carlyn Rutter. "Athletics is just her whole life," said her mother, Sue, one recent Saturday, as Carlyn waited in the on-deck circle for her thrn at bat against the Dodgers.

"She shot 44 for nine holes just last week," added her father, Larry. "She would have played football if her mother would have let her."

But Sue Rutter drew the line. "I said no to contact sports. I feel those really are for boys. She still is a little girl," said Mrs. Rutter.

Don Geer, manager of the Giants, said the boys on his team often remind Carlyn of that, and apply the same treatment to the other two female Giants, 11-year-old Alyson Griener and 12-year-old Dee-Dee Marshall.

"The boys will occasionally say something," Geer said. "But a lot depends on the girls themselves. I haven't noticed too much teasing, or too much effect on the team."

Indeed, Carlyn and her female teammates were roundly congratulated for a number of good plays during the Giants' season-opening 19-6 victory over the Dodgers.

The only awkward moment came whne Alyson Griener lined a single to center. "Attaboy, girl," shouted Larry Rutter, heaving syntax to the winds. Hearing titters on the Giant beach - from both sexes - he quickly apologized and corrected himself.

Little League Baseball is still not a sport for everyone. Kids who tyr out and aren't very good don't make the team. That has left Little League vulnerable to soccer, where everyone is guaranteed some playing time, where 22 kids play at once instead of 18, and where a kid who can't do much but run can still play effectively.

But Little League still has charm. Timeouts because a dog has wandered onto the field are routine. Scoreboards are often not updated for two innings or more, and no one seems to care. When a mother is ragging the umpire and Her Son, The Catcher, turns around to ask her to be quiet, everyone laughs but few seem surprised.

After a few innings, one doesn't even notice who's a girl and who isn't. The boys' voices have not changed yet, and as any manager or parent will tell you, hair that spills out from under a batting helmet means nothing these days.

But acceptance? It's still not total.

Carlyn, Alyson and Dee-Dee were welcome Giants as long as they were hitting, fielding and running. But during lulls, they tended to sit alone at the far end of the bench, while the boys yukked it up.

Sue Rutter says, however, that the male Giants are accepting her daughter now. "They call her on the phone, to talk baseball." And when Carlyn appeared for the Dodgers game with a brand new bat and new Juicemobile shoes, her teammates' enthusiasm had nothing to do with her hormones.

Whether sports will continue to dominate Carlyn Rutter's life is as uncertain, of course, as it has been for athletically inclined girls of any generation.

This is a young girl, after all, whose attractive 16-year-old sister Becky is a cheerleader at Jeb Stuart High School and a big influence on what their mother calls "the female side."

This is a girl who, according to her mother, "still washes her hair every morning." This is a girl who "sometimes tries not to do good in sports at school because the boys get upset," her mother said.

"She wants to be a psychiatrist when she grows up," Sue Rutter said. "But she told me the other day she had just had a dream. She was married to Jack Nicklaus and playing golf in the Dinah Shore Open."

"I think when she was 8, she really wanted to be a boy," said Larry Rutter. "She didn't want to take piano lessons because only girls did that."

But now she takes them, and plays baseball, too. Five years ago, she couldn't have. Now, as she leans in from second base, hands on her knees, waiting to fly at the crack of the bat, waiting to fly at the crack of the bat, one wonders what all the fuss was about.