In 2011, Ghazaleh Sailors and Marti Sementelli made history as the first female starting pitchers to face each other in a varsity baseball game. On Monday, Chelsea Baker, a seventeen-year-old Floridian, etched her own milestone, becoming the first female to pitch batting practice for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Baker’s fastball is impressive considering her stature, but it’s her knuckleball that causes batters knees to buckle and forces erratic, almost helpless, swings of the bat.
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) June 23, 2014
Where did Baker learn how to throw such a devilish knuckleball? Turns out she was a Little League teammate of Joe Niekro’s son, and was instructed by the master himself. The pitch proved so effective for Baker, that in 2010 she was touted by ESPN as the best Little League pitcher in the country.
Baker was 3-0 last season pitching for the Durant Cougars varsity baseball team, and sported a frugal 0.74 ERA. Considering the Rays team ERA stood at 3.91 after Monday’s game, they might be wishing Baker could permanently join their pitching staff.