The Sonoma Stompers made history on Friday July 22nd, 2016, as they featured the first all-female battery in a professional baseball game.
Kelsie Whitmore toed the rubber on that groundbreaking evening while battery mate Anna Kimbrel donned the tools of ignorance.
It was an amazing accomplishment for Kelsie and Anna, but more importantly a huge step forward for women in professional baseball.
It made me curious how many girls played baseball in San Carlos Little League during the 2016 season, so I took a peak at the registration numbers.
There were 954 kids that played SCLL baseball in 2016.
19 of them were female (1.99%) and most of them were at the T-Ball and Farm levels.
There were 5 girls in AA and 1 girl in Majors (Alexis Romanowsky – Pittsburgh Pirates).
And then there was the lone single female in AAA in 2016, Tessa Folan of the Marauders.
I managed the AAA River Cats this season and our first game against the Marauders was a Friday Night Lights game.
Tessa was the starting pitcher for the Marauders and as she warmed up in the bullpen I could see the heart of my lineup salivate with dreams of bombing one over the fence and getting a free sandwich at The Sandwich Spot.
The River Cats were the 2nd highest scoring team in AAA this season averaging 10 runs a game.
The Top 6 in our lineup hit almost everyone we saw this season and we figured Tessa was in for a quick hook.
Our leadoff batter stepped to the plate and was way ahead of a pitch and grounded out to 3rd base.
It was a similar story for our 2nd and 3rd place hitters, both totally out on their front foot and way ahead of the pitch, routine grounders to SS.
Surely the 2nd inning would be different.
And it definitely was, because this time the first batter didn’t make contact against Tessa and struck out.
After Tessa got the 2nd batter of the inning on a grounder, she faced an epic battle with the 3rd batter of the inning.
After a 3-2 count and several fouls, Tessa reached back and dialed up a little extra something, her fastest pitch of the game, ending her evening on a strikeout.
6 up, 6 down.
There would be no free sandwiches for the River Cats on this evening.
The 2nd best hitting team in AAA…no problem.
Tessa did something that evening that most boys in AAA had a hard time doing…she threw strikes!
Her assortment of off-speed pitches and throwing southpaw reminded me of Kirk Reuter, Frank Tanana, Teddy Higuera, Fernando Valenzuela, or dare I say Tom Glavine.
Pitching and especially throwing strikes had been the River Cats achilles heel all season long, and I was wishing we had Tessa on our pitching staff.
Maybe she could teach a few of our hard throwing kids how to throw strikes.
In addition to her excellent pitching, Tessa also made a great play in left field.
One of our better hitters blasted the ball to left and Tessa calmly drifted back and made the catch.
We lost that game 15-1.
In what was a great season with many exciting moments for the River Cats, that game was the low point.
And Tessa Folan set the pace with her performance on the mound.
We played the Marauders again later in the season, and just to prove she was no Vanilla Ice one hit wonder, Tessa went 3 for 3 in that game.
We were just lucky she didn’t pitch that day.
For her accomplishments this season, Tessa was named to the AAA All-Star Game.
And take it from the River Cats Manager, this was no pity “let’s have the girl in the All-Star Game” vote.
Tessa flat out earned that spot with her brilliant play this season.
I had a chance to “interview” Tessa via e-mail through her Dad Sean and her Mom Kerry.
I love to see girls play baseball, and I am always curious why they choose to play baseball with boys when most of their girl friends play softball or other sports.
Tessa will be entering the 5th grade at Arroyo next week.
Her favorite team is the Giants and her favorite player is Brandon Crawford.
“I started playing baseball in kindergarten and was attracted to the sport because my brother played it. I don’t play softball. I am not sure why, since I have never played softball”.
Tessa’s highlight of the season was when she pitched.
“I also liked fielding. My favorite position is second base.”
“We had a really nice coach”, said Tessa about her Manager Joe Casey.
“I would like to thank all my coaches for helping me develop as a baseball player”.
I was curious what advice Tessa would give to a young girl that is thinking about playing baseball, but is intimidated of being the only girl in a boys sport.
“I would say try it for a season at a young age”.
Sage advice indeed.
So what’s next for Tessa in her baseball career?
Well we really don’t know, but as Manager, AA Coordinator, and someone who loves baseball and loves seeing girls in the sport, I hope she plays Majors and beyond.
Kelsie Whitmore and Anna Kimbrel are trailblazers for women in professional baseball.
And Tessa Folan is blazing her own path as a role model for girls in San Carlos who want to play Little League baseball.