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Oakland Ballers Pitcher Kelsie Whitmore Keeps Making History

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Kelsie Whitmore throws a pitch during a game in Kalispell, Montana, on May 23, 2024. (Courtesy of EJ Omaku)

The new Oakland Ballers minor league baseball season is underway, and among the players suiting up for the B’s is barrier-breaking pitcher Kelsie Whitmore.

When Whitmore took the mound during the team’s opening series in Montana against the Glacier Range Riders, she became the first woman to play in the Pioneer League — an independent Major League Baseball partner league. While she says her first outing with the B’s didn’t go as well as she wanted, Whitmore, a right-handed pitcher, pulled herself together for the next one.

“That’s the name of the game. There’ll be ups and downs, and it’s just like how well you can maintain yourself, with your mindset,” Whitmore says in an interview over Zoom.


Now 25, she’s been playing baseball since she was 6. In 2016, she started her pro career with the Sonoma Stompers, and six years later, she became the first woman to sign with a team in the prestigious Atlantic League. She also plays for the women’s USA Baseball team, which will compete for a World Cup in August.

“You know when you have something in your heart that just feels right, and you just can’t see yourself not doing? That’s how baseball has felt to me,” says Whitmore, who was born in San Diego.

Whitmore was one of three players from open tryouts who signed with the B’s. Ballers manager Micah Franklin says Whitmore’s desire to compete at a professional level stands out to him.

“It’s a big step, stepping into this realm,” Franklin says. “You have so many alphas in here, and it is very intimidating, and she is not intimidated at all.”

Whitmore says she’s had to train her mind over the years to handle being a woman in baseball, where she faces her fair share of negativity from naysayers.

“At first, I let it eat me up — but then I switched it because I was so tired of letting it affect me. I was like, you know what? I’m just going to use it as fuel to my fire,” Whitmore says.

Organizations like the Ballers can be more supportive, though. That’s according to Justine Siegal, founder of Baseball for All, a national nonprofit building gender equity in baseball.

“I think that minor league baseball is more open to women playing, at least at the independent level,” Siegal says.

Siegal, who was the first woman to coach pro baseball as part of the Oakland A’s staff in 2015, says that the battle for opportunities to play starts early. From ages 7 and 8, girls get told they need to switch from baseball to softball to pursue a softball scholarship. Whitmore was funneled into softball when she attended Cal State Fullerton for college.

Siegal says that the Ballers being one of the hottest new teams and signing Whitmore sends a great signal.

“It shows that they take players who can compete. And that’s what women want,” Siegal says. “They’re not looking for special exceptions, but rather the chance to show what they can do.”

While the surge in support for pro women’s sports like soccer, basketball and hockey has yet to hit baseball, Siegal has noticed a shift happening. “When I started Baseball for All, I used to have to explain to people why girls playing baseball matters. And now the conversation has turned more to ‘how can I help?’”

Whitmore has noticed the shift in attitudes, too. She says people often attempted to “correct her” more often when she’d say she plays baseball.

“They’ll go, ‘you mean softball’ — like, every time,” Whitmore says. “And I’ve noticed over the years, like now when I say it, they’re like, ‘Oh, cool, what position do you play?’”

If the next question is, “What are your hopes for your baseball career?” Whitmore has a clear answer.

“I’m trying to get to the big leagues,” Whitmore says. “I’m trying to get as far as I can. That’s been the dream.”

For a long time, she says she kept that dream private between her and her father after sharing it with someone else who shot it down.

“But now it’s like, nah, screw that. Like, I don’t care what people think,” Whitmore says. “Whatever my biggest dreams are, I’m going to do what I want to do. And if they happen, they happen. If they don’t, they don’t. I want to know I did everything I could to make it happen.”

In the short term, her goal is to help the B’s get a championship ring this year for the Oakland fans, who she says are more energized than any other fanbase she’s experienced.

“I didn’t realize how invested they were out here in Oakland and how much baseball meant to them,” Whitmore says. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a home opener.”

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