Friday will mark the 24-year anniversary of the release of "A League of Their Own." Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell and their teammates depicted life in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 1940s.
Also, on Friday, Stacy Piagno, 25 and Kelsie Whitmore, 17, will play baseball. But they will not be playing in a league of their own. They will be playing with men.
The Sonoma Stompers of the Independent Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs announced Tuesday the signing of the two players, both of whom play for the Team USA Women's Baseball Team. Both will be in the starting lineup Friday.
The Stompers say this "will be the first co-ed professional baseball team since the 1950s when Toni Stone, Mamie 'Peanu' Johnson and Constance Morgan achieved the distinction of becoming the first women to play alongside men in the Negro Leagues."
— Sonoma Stompers (@SonomaStompers) June 29, 2016
Piagno is a pitcher from St. Augustine, Florida, who played softball at the University of Tampa. She led the U.S. to a women's baseball gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games, tossing a no-hitter versus Puerto Rico along the way. Piagno got the win in the gold medal game, delivering 3.2 innings of shutout ball in relief.
Whitmore is an outfielder and pitcher, who recently graduated from Temecula Valley High School in Southern California. She will attend Cal State Fullerton for softball this fall.
"While many believe it's only a matter of time before we see a woman playing in the MLB, I've learned over the past several months that there are many steps in between where we are and where we should be in terms of women in this sport," Stompers GM Theo Fightmaster says. "We hope this sends a message to the rest of the baseball world that there is room for women and girls in this game -- from Little League to the Major Leagues."
The Stompers had some help finding Piagno and Whitmore, and in giving the women an offer they cannot refuse. Virginia Dare Winery, Francis Ford Coppola's Sonoma County establishment, worked with the Stompers in "actively searching for the best women baseball players in the United States to come and join the team." Virginia Dare Winery has a three-year deal to be the team's premier sponsor.
"My family would play co-ed baseball games and inevitably the star player would always be an aunt who could run and hit and that made the games so much more fun," Coppola, director of The Godfather, Apocalypse Now and The Outsiders, among others, says. "When watching Major League Baseball, I always wondered why there couldn't be a co-ed team.
It's the one major sport in which weight and strength come less into play. So when my Sonoma winery became involved with the Stompers, I had the opportunity to turn this thought into a reality and recruit these amazing women capable of playing alongside men."
After their stint in Sonoma, both Piagno and Whitmore are expected to play in the Women's Baseball World Cup in South Korea in September. Until then, the girls of summer are professional baseball players -- not in a men's league, but a coed league.
I've been dreaming of this since day one! Man, does it feel good to win GOLD with my USA girls pic.twitter.com/6no0l8gebm
— Whit (@KelsieWhitmore) July 26, 2015
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