MLB Develops' impact on display with Women's National Team roster

Team USA prepares to kick off World Cup group stage next month in Ontario

July 15th, 2023

USA Baseball announced the 20-woman roster for the Women's National Team on Thursday. The team will compete in the upcoming Women's Baseball World Cup.

"We have a great roster. It was definitely one of the hardest ones to put together -- and that's a good thing," said Women's National Team program director Ann Claire Roberson. "We're very excited to get back into World Cup play, because it does bring more awareness for women's baseball, and brings all the countries together, too."

Nearly all of the players on this year's Women's National Team have connections to MLB Develops -- MLB's baseball and softball development initiative for youth and college players -- either as players or coaches in the program.

Ten of the 20 players on the U.S. women's baseball team participated in MLB Develops events as players, and seven more have been involved as coaches.

"It's extremely special," said MLB manager of baseball and softball development Sarah Padove. "We've intentionally focused our efforts over the last few years on creating a development pipeline and talent pipeline, and we're starting to see the fruits of that labor."

The 2023 Women's National Team roster includes Kelsie Whitmore, who currently plays for the Staten Island FerryHawks of the Atlantic League and made history when she first played for them in 2022 as the first woman to join a league affiliated with Major League Baseball.

The team also features Olivia Pichardo, who earlier this year became the first woman to play NCAA Division I college baseball for Brown University. Pichardo is one of the 10 team members who came up through MLB Develops as a player, having participated in MLB's Breakthrough Series and MLB GRIT showcases.

"What's really cool is that these athletes now, as they're making these teams, they want to give back, too," Padove said. "It's a cyclical approach. They know they're breaking barriers, and they know that young athletes are looking up to them, and so it's fantastic that they want to come back and give back to the game and to the athletes in the next generation."

Here's the full 2023 Women's National Team roster. Team USA begins Women's Baseball World Cup play in the group stage in Thunder Bay, Ontario, from Aug. 8-13. Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, South Korea and Mexico are the other countries which will be fielding teams in the World Cup.

2023 Women's National Team roster

  • Jillian Albayati -- RHP/INF
  • Jamie Baum -- RHP/UTIL
  • Denae Benites -- C/UTIL
  • Elise Berger -- RHP/INF
  • Niki Eckert -- LHP/OF
  • Sarah Edwards -- INF/LHP
  • Jade Gortarez -- INF/RHP
  • Beth Greenwood -- C/UTIL
  • Alex Hugo -- INF/OF
  • Anna Kimbrell -- C
  • Kylee Lahners -- INF
  • Ashton Lansdell -- INF/RHP
  • Alana Martinez -- INF/OF
  • Meggie Meidlinger -- RHP/INF
  • Valerie Perez -- INF/UTIL
  • Olivia Pichardo -- RHP/OF
  • Naomi Ryan -- LHP/INF
  • Remi Schaber -- INF/RHP
  • London Studer -- INF/LHP
  • Kelsie Whitmore -- OF/RHP

Kimbrell will be playing for Team USA for the 11th time -- tied for the record for most appearances on a USA Baseball national team. She was a member of the team that won gold at the 2015 Pan American Games.

Whitmore and Gortarez will be making their eighth appearance for Team USA, and Meidlinger will be making her seventh appearance, which includes winning gold in the Women's Baseball World Cup in 2006 and bronze in 2008.

There are also five new members of the Women's National Team in Edwards, Greenwood, Perez, Ryan and Studer.

"The talent is getting better and stronger at an even younger age," Padove said. "We've seen the growth within the MLB Develops programming over the last few years, and it's extremely important for the players to see these athletes play at a high level and know there is a pathway."

The 10 players who participated in the MLB Develops program are Albayati, Baum, Benites, Berger, Lansdell, Martinez, Pichardo, Ryan, Schaber and Studer. The seven additional players who have served as coaches for MLB Develops events are Gortarez, Greenwood, Hugo, Kimbrell, Lahners, Meidlinger and Whitmore.

"The MLB Develops events are allowing more opportunities for younger women in baseball, and allowing them to improve their skill set so that more talented players are coming through here now," Roberson said. "All in all, the joint events are really paving the way for more women to be named to our national team."

U.S. Women's National Team manager Veronica Alvarez -- a trailblazer herself as a coach with the A's during Spring Training -- has also worked with MLB Develops, as have two of her assistants, Malaika Underwood and Alex Oglesby.

"Those joint events have grown tremendously over the last couple of years. We're using them to see a lot of the younger players come up," Roberson said. "Veronica and Alex, they're at the majority of the events. We have our veterans on the team that are also coaching. So they're watching the younger players come through, and it's really awesome for all those players to start there and then work their way up to the Women's National Team -- which is what we are seeing now."

Veronica Alvarez shares a dugout with her fellow A's coaches at Spring Training

"The relationship with USA Baseball and the Women's National Team has been part of our MLB Develops programming from Day 1," Padove said. "It's extremely important for this next generation. You're starting to see more and more athletes really see this as a viable option for them to continue to play and not necessarily have to give up playing baseball at a young age. There's true avenues and opportunities through our tiered approach."

Among the most recent MLB Develops program participants are Berger, Martinez, Ryan and Studer. All four participated in MLB's 2023 Girls Baseball Elite Development Invitational -- where they were coached by Whitmore, who they'll now be playing alongside.

"The continuity that we've had with the MLB Develops coaching staff is a really unique piece of our events," Padove said. "Some of these recently selected athletes have had the opportunity to learn from, and be coached by, the women that are now their teammates. I just think that's such a unique experience."

The Women's National Baseball Team is also just the latest example of MLB Develops alumni playing at the highest levels of the game. Recently, five of the players selected in the first round of the 2023 MLB Draft were also MLB Develops alumni, as were six first-round picks in the 2022 Draft.

Fans can follow the Women's National Baseball Team on Twitter at @USABaseballWNT, or follow @USABaseball on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.