There are many American athletes who have made a groundbreaking achievement in sports, and Kelsie Whitmore’s name should be added to the list. As a left fielder and pitcher of the Staten Island Ferryhawks in the Independent Atlantic League, she is the only woman on the roster and the first female to play in a league partnered with Major League Baseball since 1994. Although the Independent Atlantic League doesn’t get the same attention compared to other minor leagues, Whitmore has made it clear that she is here to play ball.
It wasn’t long in the season before Whitmore would get her chances with the Ferryhawks, as she made her first appearance as a pinch-runner in the Ferryhawks’ opening game. Nine days later, she made her first start as a pitcher. However, this is nothing new for Whitmore. Before going professional, she was the only woman on her high school baseball team all the out west in sunny Temecula, California.
Last Friday my program in the New York Times Sports Writing course got the chance to speak to her before the Ferryhawks' matchup against the Charleston Dirty Birds, so I was able to get a first hand perspective on her journey toward becoming the only woman in a leagued with the MLB.
When I asked her about what’s different compared to high school, she replied, “I’d say the competition is a lot higher. There’s guys who are former major leaguers. Some played in minor affiliate ball so being against and with guys at that level is definitely what makes a difference out of it.”
Even with the increased level of competition, Whitmore is not one to shy away from intimidation.
As for her on-field performance, Whitmore’s hitting has remained a work in progress, given she has yet to get a hit in 22 plate appearances. She has made some strides in her pitching however as she managed to retire a former MLB player in a relief appearance.
As a team the Ferryhawks have only won 22 games so it’s easy for fans to suggest that Whitmore was signed in an effort to gain popularity, but general manager Gary Perone denied these claims. He stated that Whitmore was signed because of her skills on the diamond rather than trying to sell more tickets. While this might be true, Whitmore has been an inspiration to others. Perone noted that he sees a ton of young girls who look up to her when they come to the ballpark. In a city that fields plenty of stars playing for the Yankees and Mets, it’s a pretty impressive accomplishment for Whitmore to be recognized as a role model by many young fans.
Over the last few months, Whitmore’s support has only continued to grow. Although she noted the atmosphere is different compared to California, she described the fans as “very supportive and great to be around.” For someone like Whitmore to receive more attention compared to other players in the Independent Atlantic League, she conducts herself in a very professional manner which isn’t always seen from all athletes.
In a response to a question regarding how her journey might be different compared to others, she thinks that “Part of it is really just not giving up. A lot of people think it’s hard, and they go in an easier route…I’ve been through those moments and you need to fight your mind, and I feel it’s not stopping.”
She additionally credited certain people, such as her father for building a foundation where she can make the necessary steps toward achieving her dreams. Perone said she will have a career in some way and after speaking to her, it's more than likely Whitmore will have tremendous success.