In Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame, there are 10 players associated with CSUF who have items residing in Cooperstown, New York. From baseball cards and jerseys to bobbleheads and gloves, there is one player who stands out from the group.
Cal State Fullerton softball outfielder Kelsie Whitmore has a bat and batting helmet on display in the Hall of Fame, memorabilia that joins the ranks of big names in Titan athletics such as Khris Davis, Justin Turner and Phil Nevin.
Whitmore’s adjoining company was unfamiliar to her, but unlike the nine other Titans along her, she joined the Hall of Fame prior to being a CSUF athlete.
As a player for the Sonoma Stompers, an independent professional baseball team of the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball, 17-year-old Whitmore was one of the first female players to join the team. Therefore, baseball’s Hall of Fame requested the equipment she used in her first game in 2016.
“I had my first hit and they contacted my manager and talked to him about trying to get some of my gear into Hall of Fame and they then got in contact with me, asking me if it was OK and of course it was OK, I was stoked for it,” Whitmore said.
Theo Fightmaster, the Stompers’ general manager at the time, was looking to change the scope of baseball. Fightmaster’s push for inclusivity in the sport was rooted from his personal memories.
“I grew up with a sister who played little league as long as she could. She didn’t want to play softball, she wanted to play baseball and play against boys,” Fightmaster said. “The luxury as an independent team is we can do some things that affiliated teams are not prepared for or ready for.”
Through different contacts with MLB, Fightmaster conferred with a trailblazer for women in baseball. Justine Siegal, who has held coaching jobs with major league teams, provided Fightmaster a list of the best female baseball players in the country — and atop of the list was the 17-year-old skillful player.
Whitmore spent two seasons with the Stompers, where she had two hits in 26 at-bats. Now, two years later, she is sporting a career-high 30 hits this season as the Titans ran away with their fourth consecutive Big West conference title.
Although her days with the Stompers are over, Kelsie Whitmore has spent the last three years as a two-way athlete in her own right. While being an outfielder for CSUF softball during the academic portion of year, she has spent the summers playing baseball.
Summer 2018 was her third stint as a member of the USA baseball women’s national team. The national team participated in the eighth Women’s Baseball World Cup, where USA reached the bronze medal game but ultimately fell to Canada, 8-5.
“My favorite part was just knowing that I represent something bigger than myself. Knowing that I’m representing my country, that’s the biggest thing for me and I get to play a sport that I love the most,” Whitmore said.
Her father, Scott Whitmore has been by her side since the start and has gotten a front row seat to watch his daughter make history.
“We were fortunate enough to have a host family (in Sonoma) that put us both up for the summer. But to be out there to watch her out on the baseball field, playing professional baseball, it was the best summer of my life,” Scott said.
As an elementary school physical education teacher, Scott is familiar with the coaching side of sports. He coached Kelsie since she was 6 years old on a travel ball team. At that moment, he learned his daughter wanted to play baseball rather than softball.
“She just didn’t want to commit to it. I asked her, ‘Why don’t you want to play with kids your own age?’ and she said, ‘because I don’t like my hair in a ponytail,’” Scott said. “She thought that was requirement to play and I said, ‘Honey, you can have your hair down if you want to’ and she goes, ‘OK, well then I want to play baseball.’”
Kelly Ford, CSUF softball head coach posted a photo on Twitter that showed her nephew receiving a pitching lesson from Kelsie.
Kelsie is still years out from hanging up her cleats, she said, but when the time comes, she wants to be a baseball coach.
“I want to stay on the field, I want to coach baseball, I want to coach at the highest level I can coach at and I want to still be involved in the game,” Kelsie Whitmore said.
Her softball jersey is always accompanied with her baseball pants as she takes the field for the Titans. While she envisions herself playing for CSUF baseball when she watches the home games, Kelsie has learned through both sports to love being the underdog.
“That’s what Fullerton has really taught me, even when people doubt you, everything is possible and keep fighting back and keep trying to work to be the best you can be,” Whitmore said.