Megdal: Can knuckleballer Chelsea Baker became first female MLB player?

From SABR member Howard Megdal at on February 25, 2015:

Chelsea Baker is a 5’2″ high school senior in Florida, with a fastball that tops out in the upper 70s, a nasty knuckleball and dreams of playing in college and maybe even the major leagues. She’s also a girl.

“If possible, that would be the coolest thing ever,” Baker said of her reaching the game’s highest level.

It’s also patently absurd, right?

Maybe not. Although there’s been a rule on the books banning women in MLB since 1952, it would be unlikely to survive a legal challenge. A number of women have played collegiate baseball. And just last summer, teenage phenom Mo’ne Davis captured the hearts of the country by pitching her team to the Little League World Series. But by the end of 2014, the 17-year-old Baker hadn’t received a single scholarship offer, and Butch Valdes, her coach at Durant High School in Plant City, Fla., hadn’t fielded a call from a school expressing interest in her. No major league scouts have contacted her yet, either. She does have a standing offer from the Japanese women’s league, but she wants to continue facing the boys.

It’s a familiar pattern for Baker that dates back to early childhood. She is completely dismissed. Then she takes the mound, and what becomes undeniable is that she isn’t merely capable of holding her own against the boys: She dominates.

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

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Originally published: February 25, 2015. Last Updated: February 25, 2015.