Breaking barriers

Published by Aidan Treu, Date: March 30, 2023
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Olivia Pichardo, a pitcher and utility player, became the first woman to play Division I baseball for Brown University on March 17.

This comes almost exactly a year after Alexis “Scrappy” Hopkins was drafted eighth overall to the Kentucky Wild Health Genomes of Atlantic League baseball. Hopkins is believed to be the first woman ever drafted for an on-field role in American professional baseball.

“I’m really excited for this,” Hopkins said to MLB.com. “About two or three years ago in one of my college classes, they said to write down a dream of yours. I was going to put down ‘professional baseball player,’ but I actually didn’t because I was like, ‘That’s never going to happen.’ But I guess here we are today, making a dream come alive.”

Hopkins proved herself and many doubters wrong. Baseball has long been a sport where it was believed that women would never be able to advance to the highest levels, but every few years, there are advancements many never expected before.

Another similar case was Melissa Mayeux. In 2015, she was a shortstop on the French U-18 junior national team. She became the first known woman to be added to MLB’s international registration list.

Technically speaking anyone could be added to the list, but only players who have a legitimate shot at being signed by MLB organizations are added. Regardless of her future, this confirmed her talent to the international baseball world.

“She’s a legitimate shortstop who makes all the plays and is very smooth and fluid in the field,” MLB Director of International Game Development Mike McClellan said, to MLB.com’s Lindsay Berra. “She swings the bat really well and is fearless.”

Mayeux didn’t end up getting signed to a major league organization, and it was unclear whether that was her goal anyway as she said she simply wanted to play for as long as possible, but another hurdle had been cleared for women in baseball.

This brings us back to Pichardo.

Baseball for All, a non-profit that is trying to make women’s baseball an NCAA-sanctioned sport, listed that 24 women, including Pichardo, have played college baseball. None had played at the Division I level.

Brown head baseball coach Grant Achillies announced in a typical hitters and pitchers meeting that Pichardo had made the spring roster, but it was still unclear if she would ever play.

Then, on March 17, she once again made history. Pichardo was substituted in for an at-bat Brown’s home opener. In the bottom of the ninth inning, she grounded out to the first baseman, but it was much more important than an average groundout, it was a statement to every young girl out there in love with the game of baseball than they can be the next one to do something that was thought to be impossible.

It is uncertain if she will have more playing time, but the barrier has already been broken down.

Coach Achilles hopes that Pichardo’s achievements will show the baseball world that pure baseball abilities and character should be the only factors to go into talent evaluation.

“I hope it shows people that if a player is talented enough to be given the opportunity that they should be judged solely on their baseball abilities. No other factor should play into that. And Liv is an example of that,” Achilles said to ESPN.

Given all the recent female success in baseball, including stories like Rachel Balkovec being named the first full-time female manager of a minor league affiliate of an MLB team, in addition to the successes of female baseball players, it may only be a matter of time until one of these women is able to make their way on to an MLB team’s minor league affiliate roster.

Hopefully the future holds more advancements for women in the game of baseball, for the game is more enjoyable when everyone is involved.

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Aidan is a sophomore Strategic Communication and Media major with a concentration in multimedia journalism. He serves as the sports editor. This is third semester on The Rocket staff. In his free time, he enjoys watching and talking about sports, playing for the SRU club baseball team, and listening to music.

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