Originally Published: SB Nation
Catherine Slonskis, MLB National Reporter
A United States professional baseball team will carry women on its roster for just the third time since the 1950s. In this instance, not one, but two women have signed with the Sonoma Stompers, who are in the independent Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs. Kelsie Whitmore and Stacy Piagno will make their debut on July 1 and will be in the starting lineup against the San Rafael Pacifics.
Signing a woman to an all-male baseball team has been a delicate topic in the past. The game is played differently than with softball -- pitches are harder, the ball is smaller, pitchers throw from a mound instead of flat ground, and fields are larger than a softball field. Yet, Whitmore and Piagno have held their own and shown an ability to play at the same level as a professional baseball team -- thus, the signing.
Both ladies can pitch, though for Whitmore her primary position is as an outfielder. In Piagno's case, she pitches right-handed, in addition to playing on the infield. The former is on a softball scholarship with Cal State Fullerton next season following her graduation from the California Baseball Academy. Piagno was on the 2015 U.S. women's national baseball team for last year's Pan American Games when the team took home the Gold Medal.
This year, Whitmore (17 years old) and Piagno (25) are on the Team USA roster for the upcoming Women’s Baseball World Cup in South Korea in early September. Until then, though, they will be the first players on a professional co-ed baseball team since Eri Yoshida pitched in the Golden Baseball League in 2010.
Before Yoshida, Ila Borders pitched in a minor league game in 1997, and Toni Stone, Mamie Johnson and Constance Morgan played with the Negro Leagues in the '50s.
"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," team owner and movie director Francis Ford 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 only other female who currently plays baseball on any professional level is French baseball player Melissa Mayeux. Last year she became the first woman ever to be added to the MLB international registration list -- making her eligible to be signed by any MLB team.
Whitmore has also played every position, including goalkeeper, for her Golden Bears varsity soccer team. She has played baseball -- not softball -- since the age of 7. As for Piagno, she's been facing the "she's not good enough" argument since before her junior year of high school. Eventually, she overcome the naysayers and went on to throw a medal-winning no-hitter at the Pan American Games last year.