E:60 Blog Entry
Monday, July 12th
A League of HER own
Chelsea Baker is a thirteen year old female little league pitcher. She’s as dominant as any little league pitcher in the country.
In the last four years Chelsea has NOT LOST an official sanctioned little league game.
Oh yeah, and she pitched TWO perfect games in the last two years, one of them was in an all-star game…all against BOYS.
Can you remember when you played little league and there was that one pitcher that threw harder than everyone? You grabbed a batting helmet, walked to the batter’s box and saw the hype in your area. I remember the first time I faced Corey Meyers. He was the best little league pitcher in my area along with former Villanova pitcher Casey Geib. I vividly recall not seeing the pitch, but hearing the sizzle of the ball go by. I trembled, stood there waiting for the next pitch. I shook, took strike two, strike three. I sat down and dreaded going back up to face Meyers. Call me a wimp, but I was more afraid of getting hit than swinging the bat and hitting the ball. Luckily, I was on Geib’s team, Harmony and Sons. I don’t really remember facing him, but if I did, I guarantee I struck out.
(If you are wondering the scouting report on my little league career it wasn’t stellar. I made one year of all-stars as a replacement player. You might as well call me a little league scab. I hit a few home runs that year, and probably broke the record for most errors at third base.)
The point of my story is that Chelsea Baker is that pitcher, except she is in a league far better than my little league in Palmyra, Pennsylvania. She is playing against boys that look like full grown men in Plant City, Florida, a state where baseball players seem to be born and bred.
Chelsea’s story is unique in that she is a girl completely superior to her boy counterparts in little league baseball. She isn’t just a good player; she dominates…and throws a knuckleball!
Our E:60 cameras filmed Chelsea for four days in June, and I personally witnessed her pitch against 16 batters. She walked one. Three players grounded out, (one into a double play), and she struck out twelve boys. As I sat in the stands an opponent’s mother explained the situation, “they were all intimidated before they ever got in the batter’s box.” It was seriously like watching a late 1980s Mike Tyson fight. One young spectator had built her up, saying to our E:60 cameras, “She throws a 65 mile per hour knuckle ball.” He was close…she throws her knuckle in the low fifties, but her knuckle ball is legit. We also filmed in Hinsdale, Massachusetts at former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette’s Sports Academy. I witnessed the best knuckleball I have ever seen live in my life. She struck a boy out after throwing two fastballs right past him and completed the K with a knuckle curve that would buckle the knees on any hitter.
Duquette told me after watching her pitch, “Chelsea has a good delivery, and I saw that she throws down hill. I also say that she has good life on her fast ball and she’s a good competitor.”
The story has its parallels with a successful movie from 1992. A League of Their Own starring Tom Hanks, Madonna and Geena Davis among others. It was a movie about the all American girls professional baseball league in the 1940s. Geena Davis played the best player on the team, her fictional character’s name was Dottie Hinson. My initial thought for a narrator was Hanks…two-time Oscar winner. I thought about it, even made a call to Hanks agent, but after further review, it was obvious who the perfect fit was for voicing this E:60 story…Geena Davis. She is classy, successful and has the perfect female voice to narrate Chelsea’s tale.
Today, Geena recorded her voice in a production facility in California and narrated Chelsea’s story. The story should be a special one because of Geena’s involvement and we are all grateful to have her be a part of the E:60 summer premiere.
Geena arrived at the production facility in California around 4:30 eastern today. She was cordial and voiced our story as a true professional. We sent her the script in the morning for her to review prior to the tracking session. She read the script with eloquence. I directed her by speakerphone and she was very receptive. She respected me in her style and approach. It didn’t take long for Geena to get the voice down for our story and after just a few minutes, she nailed it.
Obviously, actors and actresses are very talented, and Geena was similar to another actor I directed years ago, the star of 24 Kiefer Sutherland. Our ESPN Super Bowl coverage needed a voice to open the show and Kiefer, who was a complete class act, voiced our open. He read it dramatic, slow, fast and punchy. He gave us options. Kiefer liked to read the script three times through, then get feedback from myself and a production assistant who produced the tease, Mike Hughes.
After our voice over session, Geena and I spoke for a few minutes. She told me that she is completely impressed with Chelsea and “couldn’t believe a young girl could throw a knuckleball.”
Chelsea Baker’s story is compelling. I am glad Rod and Missy Mason and the entire family chose E:60 to tell her journey. The story airs July 20th in the E:60 summer season premiere and includes some unreal super slow motion shots. Check it out.
Ben Houser is a Senior Producer for ESPN’s E:60.