TAMPA — There have been many great pitchers to participate in the Saladino Baseball Tournament over the years, including Dwight Gooden, Jose Fernandez and Tyler Danish.
However, Saturday at 4 p.m. at Newsome High, a tournament first is scheduled to take place. Chelsea Baker, the first female participant in varsity baseball in Hillsborough County history, is slated to take the mound for Durant against Lennard.
She also traveled to Japan as an ambassador of women's baseball and received an offer to play professionally, had her jersey displayed at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., was featured in Reader's Digest and competed in the National Football League's Punt, Pass and Kick youth competition.
A junior, Baker uses a knuckleball taught to her by the late Joe Niekro, a 22-year major-league veteran who died in 2006.
“Without a doubt, you have to give her a ton of credit for what she's done,'' Durant coach Butch Valdes said. “She deserves everything she has been able to do. She's unique within herself. She's been around all this publicity all this time, and for her it's just another day at the field.
“All the publicity doesn't affect her, it is just about Durant baseball and playing baseball with the family we have here. That's how she sees it all the time.”