Chelsea Baker dreams of pitching in college and MLB. Can she do it?

Chelsea Baker is a 5’2″ high propagandize comparison in Florida, with a fastball that tops out in a top 70s, a nasty knuckleball and dreams of personification in college and maybe even a vital leagues. She’s also a girl.

“If possible, that would be a coolest thing ever,” Baker pronounced of her reaching a game’s top level.

It’s also plainly absurd, right?

Maybe not. Although there’s been a order on a books banning women in MLB given 1952, it would be doubtful to tarry a authorised challenge. A series of women have played collegiate baseball. And only final summer, teenage phenom Mo’ne Davis prisoner a hearts of a nation by pitching her group to a Little League World Series. But by a finish of 2014, a 17-year-old Baker hadn’t perceived a singular grant offer, and Butch Valdes, her manager during Durant High School in Plant City, Fla., hadn’t fielded a call from a propagandize expressing seductiveness in her. No vital joining scouts have contacted her yet, either. She does have a station offer from a Japanese women’s league, though she wants to continue confronting a boys.

It’s a informed settlement for Baker that dates behind to early childhood. She is totally dismissed. Then she takes a mound, and what becomes definite is that she isn’t merely means of holding her possess opposite a boys: She dominates.

“Just about everybody who faces her thinks it’s funny,” Baker’s catcher, Jake Sullivan, explained. “But their opinions change genuine quick.”

In her initial varsity deteriorate final year, Baker pitched 19 innings, permitting dual warranted runs for a 0.74 ERA while distinguished out 9 opposite 3 walks. But her success goes behind over than that. She threw a span of ideal games in Little League, heading to a shred on ESPN’s E:60 program. She seemed on a MLB Network existence show, “The Next Knuckler.” The Hall of Fame asked for her jersey and displayed it in an vaunt on women in baseball. Last summer she threw batting use for a Tampa Bay Rays, and then-manager Joe Maddon pronounced afterwards: “She knows what she’s doing out there. It’s not a gimmick.”

So Baker isn’t some secret. Her knuckler comes in around 73 mph—faster than a one Tim Wakefield threw in a vital leagues, according to Fangraphs. But even as she succeeds during any level, a doubts repeat themselves. Sure, she’s a good story, though she can’t make it any further, right?

“Impossible, no. Improbable, yes,” Cy Young Award-winning knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who had review about Baker, pronounced in an email when asked about her office of a vital leagues. “The speed of a diversion alone as she starts to play some-more mostly opposite group and improved foe will poise a genuine challenge. we wish that Chelsea keeps going … notwithstanding a odds.”


Baker has already overcome prolonged contingency only to start her career. Her stepdad, Rod Mason, had to quarrel to get her enclosed on a coach-pitch Little League group when she was six. But Baker shortly schooled a representation that can be a good equalizer: a knuckleball.

She grew adult in Plant City down a travel from Joe Niekro, who, like his Hall of Fame hermit Phil, rode a knuckleball to a prolonged career in a vital leagues. Around age seven, Baker begged Niekro to learn her a pitch. He did, and after coached her and his son on their Little League team.

“When we was personification in Little League, we didn’t know I’d play high propagandize ball,” Baker said, her voice resonating with a pleasing gusto you’d design from a Florida girl. “And then, to chuck dual ideal games, to be respected by a Hall of Fame, relatives would still be articulate rabble about me, observant she can’t play and things like that. To a lot of people, that would make them upset, and wish to quit. we was like, I’m gonna show them we can play high propagandize ball.

Watching Baker representation can seem like an visual illusion. Her stepdad put together a DVD to send to college recruiters that uncover hitter after hitter solidified by her knuckleball. Valdes says, “She’s like your small sister, though she’ll still put a whuppin’ on we ever bit as good as one of a boys.”

Still, if Baker is to play after high school, she’ll have to overcome another problem that transcends even her distance or gender. Scouts are intensely demure to deposit in a actor though being means to plan what that actor can be in 3 or 5 years, and the knuckleball alone creates it probably unfit to do so. In perplexing to get to a heart of what Baker can be, we are left to try to see how she fares opposite foe relations to others who have done a burst to a subsequent level.

On Thursday’s SI Now, Sports Illustrated comparison author Tom Verducci discusses a skills of Mo’ne Davis and if a lady could ever play in Major League Baseball.

Fortunately for Baker, she isn’t pitching for only any varsity. She’s doing it during a propagandize that has sent several players to a college and veteran ranks.

“This [area] is a core of high propagandize baseball,” Valdes, her coach, said. “And she’s pitching in it, and she’s winning in it.”

Just removing on a pile during all is considerable deliberation a talent during Durant. Bryce Gainer, a team’s ace, is headed to Division II Mars Hill to play turn subsequent year. Valdes expects several of his other pitchers to play collegiate turn as well, and he has a lane record to support this. He’s got 3 alums on a pitching staff for a University of Tampa, a Division II module that is always nationally ranked. His best pitcher over a past few years, Tyler Danish, was drafted in a second turn by a Chicago White Sox in 2013. (When Danish came behind to revisit a program, he stepped in a box opposite Baker. She struck him out.)

Last tumble Baker got her initial extended starts opposite a best foe in a area. She took a pile during George Steinbrenner Field opposite Seminole High School and pitched 4 scoreless innings. In all she threw 25 innings in tumble ball, permitting dual warranted runs for a 0.72 ERA and agreeable 4 walks opposite 12 strikeouts. It was all a some-more considerable entrance opposite a slew of teams who will expected place kids in college programs and a draft.

“She’s there for a right reasons. She busts her butt,” Valdes said. “You don’t know that she’s a lady when she’s out there.”


Just removing a possibility to infer herself in high propagandize depended on a jump of faith by Valdes. He’d famous about a Baker story, like everybody else in a area. He’d listened whispers that others believed he wouldn’t give her a possibility to compete, that Durant’s module was too clever to cruise her. But afterwards Baker took Valdes’ Health and Personal Fitness category her beginner year.

“We talked, and we told her, ‘I’m gonna provide we like everybody else, and give we a possibility like everybody else,'” he said. “I wish we done her gentle when she got to a program. But we was anticipating she’d come out there and force it adult somebody’s behind end.”

That’s only what Baker did. She done youth varsity first, and Valdes pronounced she didn’t concede a run all season.

“She’s gonna be an investment for somebody,” Valdes said. “We have a ton of scouts around us. It’s gonna take a special manager to take a punch and say, ‘We’re gonna take a chance.'”

Last fall, we mentioned Baker to a vital joining scout. At initial he suspicion we was kidding. But when he listened about her success and what joining she was doing it in, he was shocked. Still, a director pronounced a best he suspicion Baker could wish for was a group drafting her really late, with some-more of an eye on boosting assemblage during a teenager joining associate than on indeed building her into a intensity vital joining contributor.

Baker is excellent with anything that gives her an event to keep playing, though she wants to attain on her possess merits, not only since she’s a girl. 

“I don’t wish to stay out there since of it,” Baker said. “If we get a event for any reason, that would be great.”

Or as Rod put it: “She’d be a initial one to do something else if she wasn’t good enough.”

There are other opportunities for Baker over baseball. She’s a good tyro who has already been certified to Florida Atlantic. She’s anticipating to stay local, if possible, so things like a veteran agreement offer she perceived from a Japanese women’s turn joining aren’t on a radar right now. Her mother, Missy Hutchinson Mason, is a dental hygienist, and Baker could see herself doing a same thing. She also taught herself to play a piano and writes her possess songs. But she’s not prepared to give adult on her dream to keep personification baseball.

“If we could play college, that would be awesome,” Baker said. “And afterwards we’ll see what happens.”

Hundreds of college programs. Thirty vital joining teams. All of them, looking for an edge.

“You can’t repudiate a numbers,” Valdes said. “But we can’t force a college to give her that offer. I can behind her up. The numbers are there. They can ask me about a character, we can tell them about her in a classroom, about her on a field. And I’ll give ’em all a answers I’m giving you: she’s a good kid, she’s a tough worker, she gets outs. She gets wins. Is that enough?”

In her YouTube video, Baker stares into a camera, wearing her turn uniform. Plaques and journal articles line a wall behind her. If somebody is peaceful to give her a chance, she competence only supplement to them. 

“Hi. My name is Chelsea Baker, and I’m a comparison during Durant High School in Plant City, Florida,” Baker says in a video. “I would like to appreciate we for holding a time to watch my video, and we trust we can assistance your module win some turn games.”

Is anybody watching? The genuine doubt is: Why isn’t everybody watching?