Originally Published: New York Daily News
Kate Feldman, Columnist
Two female baseball players will join the Sonoma Stompers on July 1, the Independent League team announced.
Seventeen-year-old Kelsie Whitmore, a pitcher and outfielder from Temecula, California, and 25-year-old Stacy Piagno, a pitcher and infielder from St. Augustine, Florida, will be in the lineup on Friday against the San Rafael Pacifics.
Whitmore graduated from the California Baseball Academy and will attend Cal State Fullerton on a softball scholarship next season.
Eight women breaking barriers in men’s sports
Piagno won gold with the U.S. women’s national baseball team at the 2015 Pan American Games, including throwing the first no-hitter on July 23, and played softball at the University of Tampa.
Both women are on the roster for Team USA in the Women’s Baseball World Cup in South Korea, which begins in September.
When Whitmore and Piagno take the field on Friday, the Stompers will become the first co-ed professional baseball team since Toni Stone, Mamie Johnson and Constance Morgan played in the Negro Leagues.
Virginia Dare Winery, owned by “Godfather” director Francis Ford Coppola, sponsored the Stompers “in an effort to promote the recruitment, development and advancement of women in baseball.”
“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,” Coppola said in the press release.
“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 joined the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs in 2014 after the Sonoma County Crushers folded in 2002.
In August 2014, Red Sox Hall of Fame pitcher Bill Lee became the oldest person to win a professional baseball game when he threw 5.2 innings at the age of 67.
Sean Conroy became the first openly gay active professional baseball player when he pitched a three-hit shutout for the Stompers in June 2015.
Sonoma gained national recognition when sabermetric writers Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller, co-hosts of Baseball Prospectus’ “Effectively Wild” podcast, took over baseball operations for their New York Times bestseller “The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team.”
“The Stompers share the passion and vision of Francis Ford Coppola, and are dedicated to the advancement of women in baseball,” General Manager Theo Fightmaster said.
“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.”