11
Apr
11

a legit female pitcher in youth sports? You better believe it…

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1 Response to “a legit female pitcher in youth sports? You better believe it…”


  1. April 11, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    BY ERNIE PALLADINO
    Talk to Chelsea Baker, glasses perched on the bridge of her nose, hair pulled back into a pony tail, and you’d think you were talking to a normal, cheery 13-year-old from Plant City, Fl. Not the star of a traveling all-girls squad called The Dream Team whose global statement goes far beyond the latest pop sensation or T-shirt craze.
    The message emanates from a right arm that fires both a fastball and her out pitch, a knuckleball the late major leaguer Joe Niekro taught her at age 8. It is directed at all girls through the boys she faces — and strikes out — in Little League tournaments from Las Vegas, to Michigan, to Phoenix:
    Girls can play, too! And they’re coming to your team sooner than later.
    “I’m just trying to say anything is possible,” Baker said before she started an exhibition game for the Brooklyn Youth Services under-14 traveling team yesterday at the West Shore Babe Ruth League field.
    Her appearance against the Cadets under-13 team of the Staten Island United Federation was more ceremonial than anything else. The Warriors won 10-1, with Baker going two hitless innings with a walk and a strikeout. She also went 1 for 3 with a single.
    But just her being there, playing on her batterymate Nylah Ramirez’ regular team, was important.
    “I think it’s wonderful,” Cadets coach Robert Muccio said. “If they can play, they should get the opportunity. There’s a few thousand girls playing baseball out there, and their biggest obstacles are going to be the athletic directors and coaches who don’t want girls in the sport. But some of them can really play.”
    Ramirez, the only girl on the Warriors except for yesterday’s game, is a local example of one such girl. The Prince’s Bay resident plans to try out for Tottenville High’s freshman team next year.
    “She wants to play for the best,” Muccio said.
    But Ramirez, like Baker, wants her own statement to go further than the personal.
    “It’s important for both of us to show that girls have the power to do anything,” Ramirez said. “Show that baseball’s not just for boys.”
    Baker has been doing that since she was a 7-year-old star on her Plant City T-ball team. Once she moved up to Little League, she came in contact with Niekro’s son, who played in the same association. And once she found out the former Astro and Yankee threw the knuckleball, she hounded him until he taught her.
    “At first, he didn’t want to show her,” Baker’s step-father Rob Mason said. “It wasn’t about her throwing the knuckleball. It was more like, who was going take the time to learn this. But she’s so much into detail, she practiced it constantly. He took her under her wing and he trusted her with his pitch.”
    She lost her mentor to an anyeurism Oct. 26, 2006. Since then, Baker hasn’t lost a sanctioned game. Last year, she struck out 112 batters in 60 innings.
    She hasn’t done it in private, either. ESPN did a six-minute piece on her, which is now up for an Emmy award. The Hall of Fame put her Dream Team uniform on display in 2010 to honor her two perfect games. There is a movie in the works, according to Mason.
    But it hasn’t gone to her head. Off the field, she’s just a kid, albeit a kid with 700 Facebook friends. She spends 1½ hours every morning primping for school, though the whole process involves just a dash of mascara and a brisk hair-brushing.
    She plays the piano and paints. And, yes, fellas, she’s taken. Her boyfriend is the pitcher she beat 1-0 in her first perfecto. He pitched a two-hitter.
    She’s as level-headed as they come.
    “I just keep on going,” Baker said. “I know what’s right and wrong to do, so just follow the rules.”
    If her mom could change anything about her, she might add a touch of vanity. Before Chelsea got involved in sports, Missy Baker Mason entered her in a beauty pageant.
    Didn’t work.
    “I did it once and I never did it again,” Baker said. “I think I got lost. So many people. I didn’t like it.”
    “That’s my dream,” Missy Mason said. “Get her into one more pageant. But I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”
    And that’s fine with her. She has brought up Chelsea to feel as comfortable in a formal dress as she does in a baseball jersey. She wore such a dress to Thursday’s appearance at an awards ceremony in New York where the White House Project, an organization dedicated to teaching women leadership skills, honored Ben Houser, who produced Baker’s ESPN piece. Chelsea was there for him.
    The exhibition was thrown together on short notice once the pitcher cemented her New York plans.
    The Cadets were happy she came, even though they couldn’t touch her.
    “She was good,” catcher Nick Vitale said. “She knew how to spot all her pitches. Hey, I’m all for it. She can play on my team anytime.”
    Message received.


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