Kelsey Whitmore catches Staten Island FerryHawks

Scott Whitmore stood on the field last spring night watching the final innings of a Staten Island FerryHawks home game that ended when a New York City police officer approached him from a third base.

“After the game,” said the officer sadly, “do you think I can get your daughter’s autograph?”

Of course, Whitmore laughed, though he knew the acceptance line would be long. Aside from a few Yankee and Metz stars, the most famous New Yorker this summer may be Staten Island pioneering two-way player, Kelsey Whitmore.

Standing 5 feet 6 inches, with dark chestnut hair falling apart on its uniform number, it is impossible to err on the side of FerryHawks Dugout, warming up the pitch or signing autographs. It’s an extraordinary sight even in a league known for taking chances and pressing buttons.

The Atlantic Professional Baseball League, widely regarded as the highest level independent baseball league in the world, hosted former all-star Roger Clemens, Jose Kanseko and Ricky Henderson. But the woman never started playing in the Atlantic League and did not start either until Whitmore, who did both. She is the first woman to play in a league that has partnered with the Major League Baseball since Lee Ann Ketcham and Julie Crotto joined the Maui Stingrays of the Hawaiian Winter Baseball League in 1994.

This league was about the equivalent of a Class A minor league ball, while the Atlantic is considered to be closer to the AAA class, one step below the major leagues. Whitmore, 24, a former Fullerton’s softball star in Cal, is aspiring to play professional baseball.

For Whitmore, this is a return to normal. He played softball because that was the only way he could get a college scholarship. But he is – has always been – a baseball player and shares many characteristics. He lowers his hat, spins a 32.5 ounce bat, curses impulsively and reflexively spits.

His left forearm tattoo contains Filipino images – in honor of his mother’s heritage – including a set of crocodile teeth depicting an aggressive hunter hiding under a quiet, peaceful façade.

“It’s a symbol for me,” he said, “both as a person and as a player.”

Whitmore has fascinated unsuspecting baseball men since he was a teenager. She was the only girl on the University of California baseball team at Temecula Valley High School in Southern California and the 17-year-old was one of two who played professionally in the Pacific Association Sonoma Stompers, an independent league.

Now he is alone in a league full of former majoritarians, in a team led by former Metz player Edgardo Alfonso.

There are other women who cross paths in baseball, a male-dominated sport. This spring, Rachel Balkovek from Tampa Tarpons became the first woman to play affiliate baseball. In March, Alex Hopkins was introduced to the Atlantic League’s Kentucky Wildlife Genome to serve as the team’s bubble catcher.

But Whitmore, who started twice on the left field and came out four times on the hill, insists he owns a professional baseball diamond as a player.

“This is an innovative event for us,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said of Whitmore. “It will give you an honest, true example with God of what we have been saying for years, striving: someday, we will have women who play professionally for us.”

After last night’s game was postponed due to the weather, Whitmore was in the stadium with several teammates who were working and negotiating over who was going to make the cheese sandwiches – a Bodega specialty that became an obsession at the FerryHawks club.

He abruptly stopped walking to figure out how he had jumped into a puddle about eight feet wide that had formed on the concrete, which he easily cleaned. “I did the long jump in high school,” Aichecha Whitmore shrugged.

His sporting careers also included football, lacrosse, flag football and volleyball. It can clear 280 yards with a driver and lift up to 400 pounds.

Was there any sport he did not try?

“Rejoice,” said Whitmore.

Scott Whitmore, a physical education teacher, says baseball was his daughter’s first love. At the age of 6, Scott brought Kelsey to enroll in the Little League, but he refused. He was content with pushing in the yard and swinging.

“Finally I said, ‘Why not play with kids your age?'” Scott Whitmore said.

This is because he thought his hair should be worn in the tail. He preferred to leave for a long time.

His father laughed and told him that he could wear his hair as he wished. Since then he has stayed down.

“I think my part was that if I had it, I would be like all the other girls,” Whitmore said. “It was not comfortable. It was not me. “

It is not uncommon for girls to play in a small league. But it was not long before Whitmore began to understand how gendered the designs of baseball (for boys) and soft ball (for girls) were.

“You’d listen in doubt,” said Scott Whitmore. “Hey, the boys will get stronger and he will not be able to hang out with them.” They said this at the age of 12 and it never happened.

Justin Seagal first saw Whitmore Square when he was 15 years old. Seagal, who was the first woman to coach a major league organization, founded the nonprofit Baseball For All to promote gender equality in baseball and offer opportunities for girls who want to play on youth teams. .

From that first introduction, Seagal watched Whitmore and thought he might break through and advance in professional baseball more than any woman in decades.

“He had something special,” Seagal said of Whitmore. It was obvious that he had the physical ability to compete.

But Whitmore in high school wondered if he had the mental stamina.

“I started this feeling, shouldn’t I be here?” Said Whitmore. “I do not belong here? People are constantly asking me why I am here, people are wondering, outsiders are trying to push me to another route. It started to mess in my head. ”

Loneliness also became a factor. Always the only girl, distinctive, distinctive. He became emotionally tired, he said.

“You just want to know what it’s supposed to be,” Whitmore said.

Unable to receive a baseball scholarship, he entered a softball recruitment exhibition despite his limited playing experience. His athleticism and baseball instincts proved to be enough to attract an influx of offers from coaches who thought they would be able to establish him as a star over time.

He was backing away from the idea of ​​switching to softball. “It was not what I wanted to do,” Whitmore said. “The high school softball team wanted me to play for them. To be honest, it’s like telling me to go play football. In my opinion, it is a completely different sport. “

Still, college softball looked more appealing because Whitmore felt that the spotlight might not be so focused on him.

“I thought, if I play in a team full of girls, I will get the feeling that I am not someone who is always watching or wanting to change,” Whitmore said. “When I stepped on the softball field, I thought, ‘Okay, cool, I’m finally part of them.’

He was still different.

He was moving like a baseball player, wearing a hat, wearing baseball pants. He had to re-learn to hit, to fly balls, to hit bags. Even Dugut’s atmosphere was foreign to him – the girls list interacted differently from the boys.

After the games, he would run into the cages to break the pitchers. In the summer, after the Fullerton season ended, she played on the U.S. Women’s National Baseball Team. “I told myself, this is only temporary,” Whitmore told Softball.

He also contacted Joe Beimel, a former Big League liberator who opened a training facility in Torrance, California, to help pitchers build speed. When Whitmore arrived, his fast ball was just over 70 miles per hour.

“We needed to relocate him in the ’80s,” Beimel said in a telephone interview. But he was impressed by the movement of his squares.

Whitmore’s pitching arsenal includes two seamer, four seamer, slider, curve – and something completely. “This is the weird tennis change he throws,” Beimel said.

Whitmore calls it “the thing” and the pitch has become a source of FerryHawks charm. Former teammate Julio Tehran, who previously played for the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Angels and Detroit Tigers, studied his powers before recently leaving for the Mexican League.

Whitmore could never strike professional strikers (now throws in the ’70s), but Eddie Medina, FerryHawks’s chief operating officer, who forced him to sign, felt that Whitmore could maintain a balance of strikers.

His pitching coach, former majoritarian Nelson Figueroa, succeeded despite his lack of speed, and he helped Whitmore adapt. Playing in the second pitch of the season, he allowed six mileage in a two-thirds loss in Inlow. He recorded a goalless innings in his last speech on June 5th.

Despite the mixed results, fans cheer for his name and come out to see him. Living in baseball means dressing up in your own locker room and taking a shower at the facility used by the team coaches.

But he calls his teammates his “big brothers” and they respond with hugs.

He also has a father as a source of comfort and laughter. Scott Whitmore retired in late May, packed his car and traveled all over the country.

He was not going to miss the game. “I’m going to spend the whole summer watching my daughter play baseball.”

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