Chelsea Baker has been playing with the boys almost her whole life. On Monday, she got to play with some of baseball’s best.
Baker, a 17-year-old from the Tampa, Fla., suburb of Plant City, is a knuckleball pitcher on her high school’s baseball team. She has baffled hitters since switching from softball to baseball at age 5.
So Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon invited Baker to show off her stuff in front of a major league audience by letting her pitch batting practice to the team before its game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Baker did not disappoint, showcasing a mean knuckleball that even got Rays slugger Evan Longoria to whiff wildly.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Baker told FOXSportsFlorida.com. “This is something I never dreamed of.
“Actually being able to come out here and play with a professional team, it was awesome,” she added. “I loved it.”
Apparently the high school junior learned from the best. Baker was Little League teammates with the son of legendary MLB knuckleballer Joe Niekro, and Niekro himself taught the young girl how to throw the maddening pitch.
Whatever Niekro taught her, it worked. In her first varsity season at Durant High School, Baker posted a 3-0 record with a minuscule 0.74 ERA.
Baker also threw out the first pitch before the game, an 8-1 Rays loss. Maybe Tampa Bay should have sent her to the mound instead.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@sportingnews