Kelsie Whitmore is one of three baseball diamond figures in Staten Island Community Park. The ball field stands are empty, give or take to a few hotdog vendors who open their booths in the lounges. His coach Nelson Figueroa hits the balls to him, he waits before reading the future angle, points to the ball, then takes it in his glove with his left hand and throws it back with his right.
He looks at a girl next to him and then does the same thing. He is much younger than Whitmore. His shots don’t return easily to Figueroa’s gloves as Whitmore did, but he dies halfway without jumping to the ground. He looks at Whitmore, who shakes his head after each one, casts a shadow over the action, and then turns to accept.
Whitmore Staten Island wears the No. 3 shirt for FerryHawks. In April, he signed with 24 men to play professionally with the team. She is the first woman to play in a Major League Baseball-related league since 1994. The Atlantic League, played by Staten Island, is the highest form of baseball outside of MLB. This is often referred to as the “second chance league”, where Premier League level players try to go back while playing the closest standard possible. No woman has played at the same level.
“We’re seeing more girls coming to the games these days,” said Gary Perone, the team’s general manager, looking at the “best office in the world” on the second floor overlooking Richmond Park. “Even for minor league teams. Everyone wants to go out and talk to him. He inspires many people. Not just here, but in all five districts of New York. ”
He says that today the fan was given some time with his idol, because the current rivals have abandoned the practice of fighting. His mother brought him in early, fully equipped, and said to Whitmore, “You are his inspiration.”
FerryHawks’s house sits on the edge of Staten Island, just off the coast with a ferry port. From a game standpoint, everything outside the baseball park looks like water until it reaches the horizon of the rest of New York City. If you present only this scene, you will be forgiven for imagining that Staten Island can only be a playground, that the ferry sometimes turns into a boat full of people riding to see the Statue of Liberty, and then goes back with them. again in another way.
Although they were at the bottom of the Northern Division at the start of the season, Perone called Staten Island culture “a bridge, the best baseball district in the city.”
Whitmore walks away from the impromptu session to the shelter, away from the returning ferries. The men who make up the rest of FerryHawks are starting to apply for warm-up exercises. As they jump on top of each other and begin a training workout ritual, there are seas of code in secret handshakes, body checks, and high fives. The catcher is semi-ready and accepts shots. Someone escaped from him and fell to the ground in a terrible way. He takes off his helmet, picks up the ball and examines it as if he had broken it. He shakes his head before holding, releasing the ball and starting again.
Whitmore didn’t see it, but he seemed to laugh, saying, “If you want to play this game, the first thing you need to know is that you’re going to fail. If you agree with that, you should work. “
Whitmore – not starting outside – is preparing for potential relief shots. Like his teammates and all the visible baseball players, he is constantly spitting. He has been playing baseball since he was six. He is now 24 years old. “There were no women just playing,” she says, spitting again about her beginnings. “All my inspirations were men. He just wanted me more. My job is not to try to be first. It’s about trying to do something I love. ”
At the age of 14, at the youngest possible age, she was selected to the American women’s team. Otherwise, she was usually the only woman on her team to advance against chances at every level. The wisdom was that the boys would be too strong for him and that he would not be able to keep up. This has never happened before. The first ball to enter the game in his debut for FerryHawks went poetically directly to him. He drove flawlessly. He falls asleep dreaming of such performances. “I will visualize it and try to feel it. I feel everything. I try not to be too robotic. “
There was a time when he tried to completely imitate what men do, but he found it counter-intuitive. “It was only when I admitted to myself that I would never be able to throw the ball 400 feet that it really started to work for me. I realized: ‘Oh, just how to play I to play. ‘ There’s such a thing in baseball – you somehow use it for you. “
There is a special tendency for sports and games to work for them, to find cracks. Whitmore’s ability to manipulate his lack of speed is developing a delivery that is now known in the circuit as “The Thing.” Despite its lack of speed, Figueroa, a successful major league cube, controls a constantly growing variety of pitches in its arsenal. He reconfigures his hand on the ball and walks through them in the shelter. As he shows them, the opposite front arm, which carries the crocodile’s teeth, is open – it represents a hunter hiding under the surface.
Four-stitch fast ball: the basic diet for the pitcher, which takes its name from the discovery of all four seams during flight. Change: A pitch disguised as a fast ball coming slower than it first appears. Separator with vertical break: it is so named because the fingers split between the balls and cause it to die when it hits the ball. Circle change “with some positive break”: Do not change by forming a circle of fingers. And finally, goal change (AKA “The Thing”). Figueroa called it “the strangest thing he has ever seen,” a field with few precedents.
Although the reaction to Whitmore’s entry into the Atlantic League was very positive, it was inevitable. In Charleston, Figueroa and tennis balls were thrown at him before rivals apologized on behalf of the crowd. While whispering as he waited to see if he was good enough to be there, Whitmore wanted to point out that the accusation was no exception. It’s a tight lens that Whitmore wears lightly, but feels its consistent presence. “I’m in the process of overcoming the feeling that all eyes are on me and that I have to be perfect.”
If he is not, he is sometimes worried, there are external influences, “when you have such a title, you want to show it very well. If things don’t go well, I can sometimes think to myself, ‘I’ve discouraged all these little girls’ or,’ I’ve just proved that all unbelievers are right. ‘There are still many such people.
“You have to act as if nothing has bothered you. This is the part where you get stuck because you feel like you can’t express your emotions as a woman or you will be seen as weak or not strong. But there is another side to this: ‘We want to fit in with who we are. It’s good to feel overwhelmed one day. ‘ You tend to shut it down, because if we ignore it, people will say, “That’s why you shouldn’t be here.”
There is a small wave of women entering high-level baseball lately. This year, Alyssa Nakken became the first person to coach the MLB for the San Francisco Giants at the first base. Alexis Hopkins works as a bull hunter in the Atlantic League. Rachel Balkovec manages the Tampa Tarpons, part of the New York Yankees.
“The most frequently asked question to me,” he says with a sneer for a second, “how does it feel to be a girl?” I just want to be remembered as someone who deserves it. Someone who can do it as much as he can. “Before repeating it, he thinks again:” Someone who still does it o It may be.”
He points to the greenery in front of him. “I learned more about life on this baseball field than I did at school or on the streets. It’s because you go through mistakes, ups and downs, successes, interactions, relationships, friendships. ” He points again, as if praising: “And it was all in the diamond.”
The first pitch is approaching. “What time is it?” he asks. Five-quarters remain. “Five-quarters? What does this mean? 4.45? Is this time? ” I shake my head. He smiles proudly and says: “I haven’t been doing math for a while. “I was on the field. Another day has passed since I did not use y = mx plus b. ”
With that, he spits again and mingles with his teammates, combining handshakes and body checks.
When Staten Island leaves the field, he stands outside the Perone office and looks out. Small league games are rare, with families and people dressed as hawks or bowling pins using manic and hilarious empty seats. Whitmore is there, with his arms folded in the shelter, watching the game like his other teammates, with straight black hair falling straight to the bottom of his back.
“When I was told about Kelsie, I talked to her for about two and a half months,” Perone said. “She’s very hardworking and really good.” He pauses occasionally as he speaks to the in-game DJ to make a gesture, waving his arms and urging them to raise the music between performances. “You know, you’re in the locker room with all the men and you have to deal with it. Wherever he goes, he hears his fair share. “
He gestures again to make the music louder as he hits the end of the stroke. “But everyone wants to meet Kelsey, whether it’s our team or the visiting team. When you do this, you realize that he is a special person. He will do something for the future of baseball. ”