Chelsea Baker donated her perfect game jersey to the Hall of Fame on Monday
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – When Chelsea Baker looks around the field this week, the diamond will look the same, but her teammates will not.
Baker, a 13-year-old baseball phenom, is playing for the first time with a new team called the Sparks – made up of girls from all over the country – at Cooperstown Dreams Park this week, instead of her usual male teammates.
She has noticed a difference already, and although she thinks she talks more to her female teammates, "the boys root for me too," she said.
And why wouldn't they. On Monday, she stopped at the Baseball Hall of Fame to donate a jersey she wore on April 9, 2010, to pitch her second perfect game in less than a year for her Plant City, Fla., Little League baseball team.
"This donation is just the latest way of showing that baseball is an equal opportunity employer. Size doesn't matter, it is heart that matters most," said Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson, who accepted the jersey on behalf of the Museum. "Women are an important part of the game and an important part of baseball history and we are honored that Chelsea thought of us and is willing to donate her jersey."
One of the reasons for Baker's incredible success is a knuckleball taught to her by the late Joe Niekro, a successful Major League pitcher and brother of Hall of Fame knuckleballer Phil Niekro.
Joe Niekro taught Baker the tricky pitch shortly before he passed away in 2006, when Baker was only 8-years-old.
"I think he would have been amazed, and he would have been so proud of me," Baker said.
Baker was the only girl in her league and finished with a 12-0 record on the mound for the 2010 season. Her team finished 29-1. She also has two grand slams to her credit at the plate.
Her new team, the Sparks, is an all-girls touring baseball team that is part of the Baseball For All organization. Her teammates joined her at the Hall of Fame for Monday's donation, and her jersey will now be on display for Cooperstown visitors to see, as part of baseball history.
"It's been an honor and a privilege being here," Baker said. "This is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum