Whitmore bonds with fellow hometown girl at Trailblazer Series

April 16th, 2024

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Kelsie Whitmore will be one of the first to tell you that Temecula, Calif., isn’t necessarily the baseball capital of the world. Temecula, her hometown, is better known for vineyards and championship golf courses.

But Whitmore, the first woman to play in affiliated baseball, a USA women’s baseball team player and, over the weekend, a coach at the Trailblazer Series, is on her way to changing that.

Those in the baseball world know Whitmore’s name. She’s sort of a celebrity. And now, there’s a young girl -- also from Temecula -- looking to follow in her footsteps.

Elyssa Mones got into baseball after seeing the bond her brother, Jeremiah, and her parents developed thanks to the game. A seventh grader at Temecula Middle School, Mones is en route to attending the same high school as Whitmore.

“I heard about her from my Little League coach, actually,” Mones said. “It’s just really inspiring hearing that there was another woman playing in [an affiliated league].”

(Photo by Jared Blais/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

On Sunday, the pair got to meet for the first time. (Mones had met Whitmore’s dad before, though -- he showed up to one of her Little League games, a fact that was no surprise to Whitmore.)

“It feels, like, very heartwarming? Like I finally feel secure -- I don’t know if that makes sense,” Mones said. “The fact that I actually met her, I’m like, kind of screaming on the inside but I can’t show that.”

The meeting enabled the pair to bond over a multitude of similarities. There’s something special not only about being the first to do something, but about the shared experience of being the only woman in a male-dominated space. For Whitmore, it was a reminder of her own impact.

“I didn’t have another woman [in baseball] to look up to growing up,” Whitmore said. “So I definitely want to do everything I can to be that for these younger girls and help them get through these struggles and battles in whatever way they need. I just want to be there for them as much as I can. There’s so many of them, but even [impacting] one life matters, in order to help and encourage them in any way.”

As someone looking to follow Whitmore’s immediate footsteps into high school, Mones had one very important question: Where did she change for practice and games?

Her answer? Usually a bathroom that was closer to the field than the girls locker rooms, though sometimes it was in her car -- an experience many women can relate to, whether in sports or not.

We’re starting to get to a point in baseball, though, where that isn’t always necessary. There are women’s locker rooms at some Minor League and Major League ballparks, now, whether for female umps or female coaches. Soon, maybe we’ll see those same facilities for female players.

(Photo by Jared Blais/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

“It’s really cool to see how quickly the game has changed,” Whitmore said. “It’s grown so much to the point where there’s girls travel [baseball] teams. Like, that’s insane! I remember -- [fellow Trailblazer coach] Jade Gortarez is one of my best friends ... we were always the only ones, and when we had a girls travel ball team, we never had enough. So we had to ask our brothers and the boys to play with us. Now they have tournaments of all girls, so it’s just -- the growth of it is incredible.”

As the game continues to grow, events like the Trailblazer Series, which gives about 100 girls ages 11-13 the chance to learn from some of the best women in the sport, help promote inclusivity and community. The event, in its seventh year, is important to all who participate, from its all-female coaching staff to its attendees.

For Mones and Whitmore, outside of providing a chance to meet, the event gave them a chance to remember their “why.” When Whitmore asked the young backstop what her own “why” is, her initial response was along the lines of proving others wrong, that a girl CAN play baseball.

But Whitmore shared her own experience, that her why is personal -- it’s not about outside forces, but rather her own self.

“I used to chase trying to prove others wrong my whole life, and doing that would just drain me out,” Whitmore said. “[Now], I’m going to chase proving to myself that I belong, proving to myself that I am doing what I want to do. It made me happy, and it gave me more peace in my career.”

So, Mones will continue to learn, and play, and Whitmore will continue to reach for the highest level of her craft. And in the meantime, both will cherish the chance to be surrounded by other women and girls at the Traiñblazer Series.

“Oh, for sure,” Mones said, when asked whether it’s cool to have all female coaches. “Girls dominate.”