Francis Ford Coppola and Sonoma Stompers Promote Recruitment, Development and Advancement of Women in Baseball

In a historic announcement, Virginia Dare Winery, Francis Ford Coppola's newest venture and premier partner of the Sonoma Stompers, have blazed a trail for the advancement of women in baseball by bringing two of the most talented female baseball players in the United States to begin playing with the Stompers on July 1, 2016.

In a historic announcement, Virginia Dare Winery, Francis Ford Coppola's newest venture and premier partner of the Sonoma Stompers, have blazed a trail for the advancement of women in baseball by bringing two of the most talented female baseball players in the United States to begin playing with the Stompers on July 1, 2016.

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Sonoma Stompers Staff & Virginia Dare Media Services

In an effort to promote the recruitment, development and advancement of women in baseball, Francis Ford Coppola’s Virginia Dare Winery in association with the Sonoma Stompers Professional Baseball Club, an independent professional baseball team, have been actively searching for the best women baseball players in the United States to come and join the team. It was announced today that 17-year-old outfielder/pitcher Kelsie Whitmore from Temecula, California and 25-year-old pitcher/infielder Stacy Piagno from St. Augustine, Florida have been recruited and will play with the Stompers beginning on July 1st when Sonoma hosts the San Rafael Pacifics. The two female players will be in the Stompers starting lineup on Friday.

“My family would play co-ed baseball games and inevitably the star player would always be an aunt who could run and hit and that made the games so much more fun,” said Francis Ford Coppola. “When watching Major League Baseball, I always wondered why there couldn’t be a co-ed team. It’s the one major sport in which weight and strength come less into play. So when my Sonoma winery became involved with the Stompers, I had the opportunity to turn this thought into a reality and recruit these amazing women capable of playing alongside men.”

The Stompers, which are part of the independent Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, will be the first co-ed professional baseball team since the 1950s when Toni Stone, Mamie “Peanut” Johnson and Constance Morgan achieved the distinction of becoming the first women to play alongside men in the Negro Leagues.

“The Stompers share the passion and vision of Francis Ford Coppola, and are dedicated to the advancement of women in baseball,” said Theo Fightmaster, VP & General Manager of the Sonoma Stompers. “While many believe it's only a matter of time before we see a woman playing in the MLB, I've learned over the past several months that there are many steps in between where we are and where we should be in terms of women in this sport. We hope this sends a message to the rest of the baseball world that there is room for women and girls in this game – from Little League to the Major Leagues.”

In September, Whitmore and Piagno are also slated to play for Team USA in the Women’s Baseball World Cup in South Korea. Whitmore, who recently graduated from Temecula Valley High School, will attend Cal State Fullerton on a softball scholarship next season. Piagno, who threw a no-hitter for the United States team when they captured a gold medal at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, Canada, played softball at the University of Tampa.

The Stompers have always looked to push the envelope since their inception in 2014 when former Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos left-handed pitcher, Bill 'Spaceman' Lee, became the oldest player to win a professional baseball game. In 2015, the Stompers agreed to let nationally acclaimed baseball writers, Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller, implement a data-driven approach to evaluating and signing players. Lindberg and Miller chronicled their experience in the New York Times best-selling book, "The Only Rule is it Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team." Also in 2015, the Stompers made international news when pitcher, Sean Conroy, became the first openly gay player to ever play at the professional level.

The July 1st game from Peoples Home Equity Ballpark at Arnold Field in Sonoma, California will be available via a live streaming broadcast on BAOSN.TV (Bay Area Online Sports Network) with veteran announcer Joe Castellano calling the play-by-play, reporter Kate Rooney and Stompers broadcaster Tim Livingston. The broadcast will begin at 5:45 pm PT with a special pre-game show prior to the 6:00 pm PT first pitch. Tickets to this historic game are on sale now at StompersBaseball.com.

As the premier sponsor of the Sonoma Stompers, the Virginia Dare Winery in Sonoma County is partnering with the team over the next three years. The Stompers opened the season May 31, 2016, and started their home season in Sonoma on Tuesday, June 7, at 6 p.m. against the Vallejo Admirals. Full Season tickets, mini-plans and partial season tickets and single-game tickets are on sale at www.Stompersbaseball.com.

ABOUT THE SONOMA STOMPERS

The Sonoma Stompers Professional Baseball Club was founded in 2014 and is a member of the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs. It plays its home games at Peoples Home Equity Ballpark at Arnold Field, just a block away from Sonoma’s historic plaza. The independent baseball club has had two players in its history signed by Major League Baseball organizations, as Sonoma’s own Jayce Ray was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 2015 and Santos Saldivar was signed by the Milwaukee Brewers shortly before the 2016 season. For more information on the team, visit StompersBaseball.com or visit the team’s Fan Shop located at 234 West Napa Street, Sonoma, CA 95476.

ABOUT VIRGINIA DARE WINERY

Virginia Dare Winery, American wines since 1835, pays tribute to America’s winegrowing heritage. The existence of the 400-year-old scuppernong “Mother Vine,” a variety of muscadine, growing on Roanoke Island, North Carolina is intertwined with the story of one of the first English settlements in the New World, which later mysteriously disappeared without a trace, leaving nothing but a spellbinding story of mythical and mysterious characters – each of which grace the labels of our wines. Crafted with grapes from the finest viticulture regions in California, our wines are rich with characteristics befitting an American legend: Pure. Natural. Distinctive. Learn more by visiting Virginia Dare Winery located at 22281 Chianti Road, Geyserville, CA 95441.