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Oakland Ballers To Keep Baseball in Oakland

 Julian Guilarte  |    Apr 29th, 2024 11:00am EDT

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The Oakland Ballers will open the 2024 Pioneer League regular season at Raimondi Park to keep baseball in Oakland.

The Oakland Ballers have played their spring training games in Raimondi Park and will open their regular season there on June 4. They signed Kelsie Whitmore on April 10 and announced the news on their social media accounts. She will be the first female to play for the Ballers and in the Pioneer League.

Raimondi Park is in Oakland, Calif. It was built in 1910 and was renamed in Ernie Raimond’s honor in 1947. Raimondi died in World War II and played in the minor leagues for the Oakland Oaks.

The Baller’s presence in Oakland is significant since the Oakland Athletics will leave Oakland after this season.

The Athletics announced on April 5 that they will play the 2025-2027 seasons in Sacramento at Sutter Park. Sutter Park is currently the home of the San Francisco Giants’ Triple-A affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats.

The Athletics will play in Las Vegas in 2028.

Ballers CEO Paul Freedman spoke to World Baseball Network about the significance of the Ballers playing in Oakland.

“The Ballers were started by A’s fans, and as such, we are heartbroken. But this team was also started by Oaklanders, and in that respect, we couldn’t be more proud. Today is a tough day, but you can’t be beaten if you never give up. Let’s build something great together,” Paul Freedman, Oakland Ballers co-founder, said.

The Oakland Ballers are a new franchise in the Pioneer League, which was established in 1939 and partnered with the MLB. The Pioneer League consists of 12 teams.

The Oakland Ballers made Pioneer League history when they signed right-handed pitcher Kelsie Whitmore on April 10. She will be the first female to play in the Pioneer League. Whitmore was a two-way player, but she will pitch out of the bullpen for the ballers.

Whitmore, 25, was also the first female player to play in the Atlantic League when she signed with the Long Island Ducks in 2022 and the first female to play baseball at Temecula Valley High School.

According to The Athletic reporter Mellisa Lockard, the Ballers held an open tryout on April 6 and invited Whitmore to attend.

Ballers manager Micah Franklin talked to Lockard about the signing of Whitmore.

“As soon as I saw her getting outs, I was like, ‘Hell yeah, I want her on our team.’ I’m a dad of three girls and I think it’s very, very important to show that you can do it,” Franklin said. “We didn’t sign her because of her gender. If we didn’t believe she could get outs, she wouldn’t have gotten signed.”

The Ballers also signed infielder Andrew Marinez and right-handed pitcher Connor Caporale on April 10. Marinez, 26, played three games in the Pioneer League last season with the Missoula PaddleHeads. Caporale pitched two games for Westside in the United Shore League last year.

Right-handed pitcher Danny Kirwin became the first Ballers’ player to sign a deal with an MLB Organization. Kirwin signed with the Red Sox on April 23. In 2023, Kirwin pitched for Rider in the MAAC, Mahoning Valley in the Draft League, and Tri-City in the Coastal Plain League

In 2023, he pitched 71 innings, had 92 strikeouts, and had an ERA of 2.91 in all three leagues.

The Ballers will play their first game of the 2024 regular season on May 21 at the Glacier Range Ridgers in Kalispell, Montana, at 5:05 p.m. EST at Glacier Ballpark.