There are two noteworthy aspects to this story. First, the addition of two women to the Stompers roster. 17-year-old outfielder/pitcher Kelsie Whitmore from Temecula, Cal. and 25-year-old pitcher/infielder Stacy Piagno from St. Augustine, Fl. Both are known quantities: Whitmore is a California Baseball Academy product who was also tracked by Perfect Game and will attend Cal State Fullerton on a softball scholarship next season. Piagno was a member of the 2015 USA Baseball Women’s National Team, while also throwing a no-hitter in the Pan American Games. In September, Whitmore and Piagno are also slated to play for Team USA in the Women’s Baseball World Cup in South Korea.
There is certainly a paucity of women in professional baseball. Toni Stone, Mamie “Peanut” Johnson and Constance Morgan played in the Negro Leagues in the 1950s, and more recently Ila Borders took the field for two independent Northern League and Western Baseball League teams in 1997-2000. Eri Yoshida, a Japanese knuckleballer, also pitched in independent ball in 2010-2013.
In general, interest in women in baseball is on the rise — the National Pro Fastpitch league is seeing increased interest as well — and many predict we will see women players in affiliated ball in coming years as well.
Also fascinating: the Stompers enlisted Coppola as a sponsor for the signings. Coppola is one of the great filmmakers and screenwriters of our time, with credits like Patton, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now on his resume. He’s a winemaker these days, and his Virginia Dare Winery is sponsoring the Stompers in this endeavor.
“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 a press statement. “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 share the passion and vision of Francis Ford Coppola, and are dedicated to the advancement of women in baseball,” said Theo Fightmaster, VP & General Manager of the Sonoma Stompers. “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.”