Chelsea Baker, a 17-year-old high-school baseball player, was known as the "Knuckleball Princess" long before she tossed her knuckler at big leaguers. She was taught by Joe Niekro, her Little League coach, and became the first girl to play high-school baseball against boys in the history of Hillsborough County, Fla.
On Monday, she faced a different level of competition — throwing her dancing knuckleball to Evan Longoria, David Price and other members of the Tampa Bay Rays during batting practice. She got a couple swing-and-misses, which is pretty cool. And she even plunked Longoria at one point (video below), which is an oops. From MLB.com:
"It was a lot of fun," Baker said. "I had a great time. ... I've done a bunch of things, but this is beyond anything I've ever imagined. It was a great opportunity."
She met Rays manager Joe Maddon at an event last week, and since he's the kind of guy who invites penguins and a Native American medicine man to the clubhouse, inviting a female teenager knuckleballer wasn't all that odd.
Afterward, Maddon was quite impressed by Baker.
"She was outstanding," Maddon said. "... She has a really good arm stroke. She has a really good knuckleball. It actually moves nicely. She knows what she's doing. She has very good composure. She's a bright young lady. ... Pretty impressive."
The high-schoolers who play against Baker would have to agree. As a junior pitching for Durant High School, she had three saves in 19 appearances, owning an ERA of 0.74.
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