Kelsie Whitmore becomes first woman to start Atlantic League game

GASTONIA, N.C. — Kelsie Whitmore played left field and batted ninth for the Staten Island FerryHawks on Sunday, becoming the first woman to start a game in the Atlantic League and one of the first to do so in a league connected to Major League Baseball.

The 23-year-old Whitmore cracked manager Edgardo Alfonzo’s lineup for the FerryHawks’ game at the Gastonia Honey Hunters.

Whitmore, a right-handed hitter, struck out in her first at-bat. She was hit by a pitch in the second — she hustled toward first base after being struck in the arm by a breaking pitch — and flied out to right in her third time up.

Whitmore had previously come off the bench for Staten Island, making her debut on April 21 at Charleston as a pinch-runner with two outs in the ninth inning.

Whitmore is a two-way player and has been working with pitching coach and former big leaguer Nelson Figueroa, but she’s yet to pitch in a game for Staten Island.

A former college softball player at Cal State Fullerton, Whitmore signed with Staten Island this month, one of several notable moments for women in baseball this season.

Last month, San Francisco Giants coach Alyssa Nakken filled in as first base coach, becoming the first woman to coach on the field for a big league game. A few days before that, Rachel Balkovec won her debut managing the Low-A Tampa Tarpons in the New York Yankees’ system, becoming the first woman to skipper a team affiliated with a major league club.

Whitmore pitched and played in the outfield for the U.S. women’s baseball team from 2014-19 and spent parts of two seasons with the Sonoma Stompers of the independent Pacific Association.

Atlantic League teams are not big league affiliates, but the circuit is an MLB partner league. It’s a step up in quality from the Pacific Association.

“I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given,” Whitmore said prior to the season. “This one, by far, I’m really looking forward to, because it’s next level for me.”

At least two other women have played in a league with a connection to MLB: Lee Anne Ketcham and Julie Croteau were on the Maui Stingrays in the Hawaiian Winter Baseball League in 1994.

“Playing baseball at the highest level is my goal,” Whitmore said. “You know, if you ask any other guy that’s going to be in the league what his goal is, it’s the same thing, to get to the next level and play at the highest level I could possibly play at.

“Eventually, I want to play in affiliated ball. I want to make this game my career, my living, and just, you know, be a part of it as much as I can.”


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