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The women of minor league baseball


kelsie whitmore
Kelsie Whitmore, from the Stompers’ Twitter

 

No skirts, no gimmicks, no league of their own.

There haven’t been many women throughout baseball’s long history, but they have graced the minor league fields every so often.

Most recently, during the summer of 2016, an independent minor league team, the Sonoma Stompers signed two female players: Stacy Piagno, a pitcher, and Kelsie Whitmore, an outfielder. Both are members of the US women’s national baseball team. Their addition to the team marked the first time two females played on the same minor league team since the Negro League in the 1950s.

Whitmore, 19, just wrapped up her freshman year playing for Cal State. She played in eight games for the Stompers in 2016, making 14 PA and registering just a single hit and is back with the team this summer.

Meanwhile, Piagno recently left her mark on history. In July, she became one of only three women to record a win in a men’s game since the 1950s. She pitched seven innings, allowing only one earned run and four hits in a 16-1 win. Whitmore was also on the field for Piagno’s win, starting in left field and registering her first hit of the season.

stacy piagno 2
Stacy Piagno from the Stompers’ Twitter account

 

Piagno and Whitmore may be making great strides for women in baseball, but they weren’t the first to suit up for men’s teams.

Japanese pitcher Eri Yoshida made her way to the US to try her hand at professional baseball in America in 2010. The knuckeballer signed with the Chico Outlaw, who played in the independent Golden League through 2010 before moving to the North American League. Before coming to the US, Yoshida was the first female to be drafted by a professional baseball team in Japan.

yoshida

In the 1990s, there was Ila Borders, the first woman to earn a collegiate scholarship to play men’s baseball and the first woman to record a win in men’s college baseball. She then went on to pitch in the Independent Northern League and the Western League. Her best season came in 1999, when she finished the season with a 1-0 W-L record and 3.63 ERA.

Even before them, Toni Stone, Constance Morgan and Mamie Johnson played in the Negro League in the 1950s. Stone was the first of the three women to sign with a team. In 1953 she signed with the Indianapolis Clowns to replace a player by the name of Hank Aaron, who had found his way to the majors. When Stone was traded to Kansas City, Morgan took her place on the Clowns.

Johnson was the last of the bunch to play for the Clowns, but as a pitcher, she made her way into the team’s starting rotation.

Though these women found success (some more than others)  in the minors, the possibility of a woman ever playing in Major League Baseball still seems unlikely and while professional softball exists, it’s not necessarily gaining much attention.

At the moment, the best candidate for a woman to break the barrier may be Mo’ne Davis. Remember her?

mo'ne davis

A few years ago, when Davis was 13 years old, she became an international sensation. Davis pitched in the Little League World Series (LLWS) for Philadelphia’s Taney Youth Baseball Association. She became an overnight star, a hero. She was the first girl to pitch a shutout in the LLWS. She was an instant celebrity.

Mo’ne is still playing baseball, this summer she played for a Philadelphia team in the RBI World Series, just months after playing for the her high school’s softball team. But in the long run, she seems to be focused on basketball rather than baseball, and is already generating a buzz around college basketball programs, even though she’s still only 16. Her love for the basketball court casts a shadow on her possible future in baseball and breaking the glass ceiling.

Perhaps she’ll be a 2-sport athlete in college. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll see her fanning baseball players in the NCAA rather than starring on the softball team. But will we get a chance to see her become the first female to play for a MLB team at some point, especially with all the hype around her?

At the moment, we just don’t know. But in honor of the women who couldn’t make it out of minor league baseball, and for future hopefuls, we sure hope so.