|Chelsea Baker throws from behind the batting practice|
L-screen at Tropicana Field.
|Baker's knuckleball grip, fingertips up|
against the seams.
I have no idea if Baker's flutterball is anywhere near good enough for pro ball, but I have theorized that if/when a woman plays major league baseball it will be a knuckleball pitcher, because that specific pitch might level the competition.
Men, as a rule, are stronger and faster — better athletes — than women. I have no doubt that a truly elite female athlete — Serena Williams, let us say — is faster and stronger than me, but a Serena Williams trying to play second base in the majors isn't competing against a run-of-the-mill man for playing time, but against the likes of Robinson Cano or Eric Sogard. Cano's a star, Sogard's a platoon guy, but they are both pretty elite athletes in their own right.
The knuckleball, however, is a bit less about physical abilities and a bit more about emotional stability. At risk of sounding overly mystical, the good major league knuckleballers seem to surrender to the pitch. There is athleticism involved, certainly, but at the heart of it seems to be a resignation to the unpredictability of the pitch. That aspect wouldn't seem out of reach for a woman.
Again, I don't know if Baker's the one to challenge the gender barrier, but I'm open to the possibility.