Women are playing ball with men, and it’s about time.
Kelsie Whitmore and Stacy Piagno are incredible baseball players.
They played on the same team during the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto when Piagno threw a no-hitter. Whitmore’s only 17, and already well-known nationwide.
Therefore, what I’m about to say next shouldn’t come as a surprise:
They’re so good that professional minor league baseball team the Sonoma Stompers is signing both of them to the team.
But it is surprising.
This is a huge step forward for women in professional baseball.
Whitmore and Piagno will be the first women to play on a professional baseball team alongside men since Toni Stone, Mamie Johnson, and Constance Morgan played in the Negro leagues in the 1950s.
So how did this come to pass? Two reasons:
1. The Stompers are champs when it comes to taking that first step into uncharted modern professional baseball territory.
Last year Stompers pitcher Sean Conroy became the first openly gay professional baseball player.
2. Francis Ford Coppola, who used the power of his Sonoma-based winery to help recruit the women to the team:
“When watching Major League Baseball, I always wondered why there couldn’t be a co-ed team. It’s the one major sport in which weight and strength come less into play. So when my Sonoma winery became involved with the Stompers, I had the opportunity to turn this thought into a reality and recruit these amazing women capable of playing alongside men.”
While Whitmore and Piagno’s recruitment is notable, they won’t be the first women to appear on a professional (read: men’s) baseball team.
Back in the 1920s Lizzie “The Queen of Baseball” Murphy shattered that glass ceiling.
Murphy was actually the first person (not woman, person) to play for both baseball’s National League and the American All-Star League. She was even inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Of course in the 1940s, America saw the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League become popular, but instances of co-ed ball-playing remained few and far between.
There’s still a lot more work to be done before we see women playing in the major leagues.
“While many believe it’s only a matter of time before we see a woman playing in MLB, I’ve learned over the past several months that there are many steps in between where we are and where we should be in terms of women in this sport,” Sonoma GM Theo Fightmaster said in a statement.
“We hope this sends a message to the rest of the baseball world that there is room for women and girls in this game – from Little League to the Major Leagues.”
It’s worth noting, too, that there aren’t any rules preventing women from playing Major League Baseball. Several women are eligible, but so far, none have been signed. It’s about time that changed.
As the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League song goes (emphasis mine):
Batter up! Hear that call!
The time has come for one and all
To play ball.