In Japan, they call Chelsea Baker "the Knuckleball Princess" and even once offered her a $50,000 annual contract. But in Plant City, Fla., she's just another member of the Durant High baseball team.
Baker, who rose to prominence upon throwing a pair of perfect games in Little League four years ago, is now a junior right-handed pitcher starting for the Cougars in Florida's competitive Class 7A. Needless to say, she's the only girl on Durant's 10-3 baseball team. But that's not the only reason she stands out.
The 5-foot-2, 120-pound Baker throws mostly knuckleballs, a pitch she learned from two of the best to ever throw it. First, 1979 Major League Baseball All-Star Joe Niekro taught her as a youth and later 2009 MLB All-Star Tim Wakefield helped her perfect it, according to the Plant City Times & Observer.
Baker has started this season 2-0 on the mound with a 0.78 ERA and three strikeouts against only one walk in her first nine innings. The only starting pitcher on the roster to have recorded a win without registering a loss through the first six weeks, she has allowed just seven hits in three appearances.
“When I was little, all my dreams were to be on the USA team and high school baseball, and people always told me, ‘You’ll never play varsity baseball, you’re not strong enough, you don’t have the guts to do it,’" she told The Tampa Tribune upon recording the first win of her high school career, "so coming out here today and taking the win was an awesome feeling. It was like, "I got you.'"
In 2010, Baker appeared on ESPN's "E:60", the MLB Network's "This Week in Baseball" and ABC's "Good Morning America" during her fourth consecutive perfect youth baseball season.
Four years later, she still hasn't lost. Maybe she's not just another member of the baseball team after all.