Before Lydia and I even started to conceptualize this blog, we spent many hours emailing back and forth about awesome women who challenged our preconceived notions about female participation in sports. Although we can name many women who have excelled in various professional sports, it’s harder to find stories about younger girls as they come up in the world of sports. For boys, we get to watch the Little League World Series, read fawning articles about high school basketball stars, and obsess over devotional (and also often quite compelling) television series like Friday Night Lights. Girls just don’t have the same market share.
So when we heard about a young girl excelling in baseball, you bet we noticed. We fell hard. Chelsea Baker, a 14 year-old pitcher from Florida, has been called “the best female baseball player [in her age group] in the United States.” Tutored by Joe Niekro, a former major league pitcher who excelled at throwing the knuckleball, Chelsea strikes opposing players out with a frequency R.A. Dickey only dreams of.
Baker has completely defied any expectations from female baseball players: at 13, she had already pitched two perfect games, and donated one of the jerseys she wore for that game for display in the Baseball Hall of Fame. She has also gained nation-wide notoriety from an ESPN E:60 documentary, highlights of which you can see here.
Recently, Baker has visited Japan, promoting a scheduled 2013 friendship series between American and Japanese female baseball players, and meeting with Eri Yoshida, a Japanese professional knuckleballer breaking barriers of her own.
One of the things that Baker struggles with is dealing with opposing male players who feel defeated after facing her. Justine Siegal, the first female professional baseball coach, has coached Baker recently and helped her handle this issue. “It’s unfortunate that boys feel so much pressure to perform well against the girls,” Siegal said. “I know that Chelsea would like to be seen as a player, not just a girl playing baseball. And in our society, we have this myth that girls are weak and boys are strong. Chelsea’s debunking that myth. And as soon as girls and boys realize that they can play the game together – the whole game – baseball, the greatest game on Earth, will become a better game for everyone.”