Always an Outlier, Kelsie Whitmore Just Wants to Play Baseball

Whitmore, a pitcher and outfielder for the Staten Island FerryHawks, is the first woman to play in a league partnered with Major League Baseball since 1994.

Scott Whitmore stood along the concourse on a recent spring night watching the final inning of a Staten Island FerryHawks home game wind down when a New York City police officer approached him from the third-base side.

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

Sure, Whitmore chuckled, though he knew the receiving line would be long. Outside of a handful of Yankees and Mets stars, the most famous ballplayer in New York this summer might well be Staten Island’s pioneering two-way player, Kelsie Whitmore.

Standing 5 feet 6 inches, with dark chestnut hair that unfurls past her uniform number, she is impossible to mistake in the FerryHawks’ dugout, warming up on the field or signing autographs. She is an unusual sight even in a league known for taking chances and pushing buttons.

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The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, widely considered the highest level among baseball’s independent minor leagues, has hosted the former All-Stars Roger Clemens, Jose Canseco and Rickey Henderson. But a woman had never started an Atlantic League game, nor pitched in one, until Whitmore, who has done both. She’s the first woman to play in a league partnered with Major League Baseball since Lee Anne Ketcham and Julie Croteau joined the Maui Stingrays of the Hawaii Winter Baseball league in 1994.

That league was about the equivalent of Class A minor-league ball, whereas the Atlantic is thought to be closer to Class AAA, one step below the big leagues. At 24, Whitmore, a former Cal State Fullerton softball star, is making a run at sticking in professional baseball.

Whitmore’s tattoos on her left arm include a string of crocodile teeth, which are meant to represent an aggressive hunter lurking under a quiet, tranquil facade.
Whitmore’s tattoos on her left arm include a string of crocodile teeth, which are meant to represent an aggressive hunter lurking under a quiet, tranquil facade.
Whitmore is a pitcher and an outfielder. She has had mixed results thus far as she adjusts to the level of play.
Whitmore is a pitcher and an outfielder. She has had mixed results thus far as she adjusts to the level of play.
Whitmore’s athleticism is off the charts. She was a long jumper, played soccer and can dead lift 400 pounds.
Whitmore’s athleticism is off the charts. She was a long jumper, played soccer and can dead lift 400 pounds.

For Whitmore, that represents a return to normal. She played softball because it was the only way she could earn a college scholarship. But she is — always has been — a baseball player, and she shares many of the telltale traits. She wears her cap pulled low, swings a 32.5-ounce bat, curses impulsively and spits reflexively.

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The tattoos on her left forearm contain Filipino imagery — an homage to her mother’s heritage — including a string of crocodile teeth, representing an aggressive hunter lurking under a quiet, tranquil facade.

“It symbolizes me,” she said, “as a person and a player.”The ManagerRachel Balkovec outworked and out-studied the competition for years. Now, at the helm of the Tampa Tarpons, she is ready to change baseball, one player at a time.April 16, 2022

Whitmore has been surprising unsuspecting baseball men since she was a teenager. She was the only girl on the varsity baseball team at Temecula Valley High School in Southern California, and at 17 was one of two who were signed to play professionally for the Sonoma Stompers of the Pacific Association, an independent league.

Now, she is on her own in a league filled with former major leaguers, on a team managed by a former Mets player, Edgardo Alfonzo.

There are other women carving paths in baseball, a male-dominated sport. This spring, Rachel Balkovec of the Tampa Tarpons became the first woman to manage in affiliated baseball. In March, Alexis Hopkins was drafted by the Atlantic League’s Kentucky Wild Health Genomes to serve as the team’s bullpen catcher.

But Whitmore, who has twice started in left field and made four appearances on the mound, is making her case that she belongs on a professional baseball diamond as a player.