The Tampa Bay Rays took batting practice against a female high school knuckleballer Monday night — and came away impressed.
Evan Longoria, Jose Molina and David Price all took cuts against 17-year-old Chelsea Baker from Durant High School in nearby Plant City. They did it before Monday night's game against Pittsburgh.
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon met Baker recently at an awards ceremony and invited her to Tropicana Field. The high school junior, who plays on her school's baseball team, became the youngest girl to ever throw an MLB batting practice.
Baker faked out the boys by mixing in a couple of fastballs, but it was the teenager's knuckleball that wowed everyone.
"Moves nicely," said Maddon.
Baker admitted that she was a little nervous at first, but had a "great time" while pitching from about 10 feet in front of the mound and behind a protective screen. She displayed good control, but did plunk Longoria in the back with a pitch.
Molina swung and missed a couple of times, and Price hit a hard line drive up the middle.
Baker says the late major league knuckleballer Joe Niekro taught her to throw the spasmodic pitch in Little League.
He taught her well.