College Sports

St. Mary’s College’s Skylar Kaplan is among 9 women playing varsity college baseball. There’s hope this is just a start.

Skylar Kaplan, a Glen Burnie resident and North County graduate pictured in 2020, joined the St. Mary’s College baseball team as a right-handed pitcher. She is one of only nine women playing varsity college baseball in the United States and Canada this spring, according to the nonprofit Baseball For All.

Skylar Kaplan is delivering perhaps the biggest pitch of her athletic career.

Kaplan, a Glen Burnie resident and North County graduate, joined the St. Mary’s College baseball team as a right-handed pitcher. She is one of only nine women playing varsity college baseball in the United States and Canada this spring, according to Baseball For All, a nonprofit that builds gender equity by creating opportunities for girls to play, coach and lead in the sport.


Although she has yet to make an appearance for the Seahawks, Kaplan is bracing for the possibility that she will be the center of attention when she does take the mound for the first time.

“It’s definitely a lot of pressure because when you go out there, everyone knows it’s a girl out there,” the 20-year-old freshman said. “So then as a pitcher, all eyes are on you, and when you’re the only girl out there, all eyes are really on you. So it does get a little tough sometimes. But I just try to remind myself that I know enough and that I’ve proven myself this far to keep going.”


According to Baseball For All, Kaplan and the eight others represent the highest number of women playing varsity college baseball in a single season.

BIGGEST & BEST SEASON YET 🥶🔥👆 • This season, 9 women are suiting up to play Varsity College Baseball in the US & Canada...

Posted by Baseball For All on Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Baseball For All founder Justine Siegal, the first female coach for a Major League Baseball franchise (the Oakland Athletics) and first female coach of a professional men’s baseball team (the Brockton Rox of the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball), is encouraged by the turnout.

“I think nine is just the beginning,” she said. “We’re going to see more women break into baseball.”

As rare as it is to see a woman play baseball, the envelope had been pushed long ago. The first woman to play baseball at the NCAA level was Julie Croteau, who earned a spot on the St. Mary’s roster as a freshman first baseman in 1989. Since then, 15 more women have participated in NCAA baseball, but Croteau was the pioneer.

“It hadn’t been done before. So I think we were all sort of figuring it out as we went along,” recalled Croteau, who lost a sex discrimination suit against Osbourn Park High School in Manassas, Virginia, in 1988 for the right to play and is now director of communications for the human resources department at Stanford. “St. Mary’s gave me the opportunity to try out and walk on, and I was really grateful for that. It was an opportunity to prove myself on the field, which is what I wanted to do.”

The Seahawks, in fact, have welcomed three women to the team in their history. Jenkins played in 2019 and 2020 before transferring to Chatham, and St. Mary’s coach Bernie Stratchko said he welcomes their presence.

“There’s something about an individual who when society tells her she should be playing softball, she goes against that,” said Stratchko, who is in his sixth year of coaching. “There’s something about that person in my mind that I think is valuable to a team. And each of the women who played for me played high school baseball. In Skylar’s case, she played college baseball at Anne Arundel Community College. So in my mind, they proved that they deserve an opportunity and that they can handle the opportunity.”


A chance is all Kaplan has been seeking. Picking up the sport at the age of 4, she endured stares, jeers and passive-aggressive comments from onlookers during her Little League and rec years, but made the junior varsity team at North County.

But when she tried out for the varsity squad as a junior, Kaplan said she was unfairly denied and given nonsensical reasons by the coaching staff. Kaplan said she has her suspicions.

“I hate to say it, but it was because I was a girl,” she said. “I hate playing that card, but everyone could see it. Ever since I was on JV in my freshman year, we knew that the coach was never going to let me on varsity. But I went back out in my senior year to prove to them, ‘I know what you’re doing, and you’re not going to stop me.’ So even though I knew it was going to be the same result year in my senior year, I went out there anyway to prove to them that I’m still going to keep playing.”

Skylar Kaplan, pictured in 2020, pitched 11 2/3 innings in 10 appearances for Anne Arundel Community College and had a 0-1 record with an 11.57 ERA, 11 strikeouts and six walks. She said the team’s welcome rekindled her passion for baseball.

After graduating in 2020, Kaplan enrolled at AACC and joined the women’s basketball program. After that season ended, she asked baseball coach Nick Hoffner if she could try out.

“It was obviously the first time for myself to coach a female athlete in what is considered a predominantly men’s sport,” Hoffner said. “I treated her like any other person on the team, and I think that’s what she wanted as a baseball player. She didn’t want any preferential treatment, and she didn’t get it. She came out every single day, worked hard, and had the attitude where she wanted to work hard and wanted to get better, which is something I always try to get out of our players.”

Kaplan, who pitched 11 2/3 innings in 10 appearances and had a 0-1 record with an 11.57 ERA, 11 strikeouts and six walks, said the team’s welcome rekindled her passion for baseball.


“It meant a lot, especially because of everything I had been through,” she said. “After my junior year, [getting cut] was the worst day of my life because it was out of nowhere. So it definitely meant a lot to go out there and play against some really good players. … That really built up some confidence. It helped put me back on a good track.”

Kaplan said she reached out to Stratchko, the St. Mary’s coach, in August because she knew former players in pitcher Sam Roeder (Severn) and catcher Andrew Atkins (Oakland Mills) and current players in junior outfielder Ian Adams (Old Mill, AACC) and junior catcher/outfielder Ben Atkins (Oakland Mills).

Stratchko said the only accommodations he makes for Kaplan are use of the women’s basketball locker room to change and shower and a separate hotel room on road trips where she is accompanied by a female travel partner.

Stratchko said Kaplan, who joined the baseball team late after the conclusion of the basketball season, said he and his coaches are working on a few aspects of her pitching. But he described her as talented.

“She’s getting close,” he said. “Her time is definitely coming soon.”


Croteau, the first woman to play NCAA baseball, said she draws inspiration from the nine women playing varsity college baseball.

“There were barriers for these women that weren’t there for young men, but it means these nine women all played through youth, they weren’t discouraged, they weren’t forced out of the sport, and they found nine universities that were open to baseball players regardless of their gender,” she said. “So it fills me with optimism and joy about the future because each time you do it, you realize that it’s a doable thing, and people in the community see that it’s a doable thing.”

Siegal, the Baseball For All founder, has known Kaplan since she was 13 after Kaplan’s father Tim contacted her and said she was being mistreated. Kaplan attended Baseball For All’s first national tournament in 2015 and met other girls who played baseball. Siegal said Kaplan “has a lot of grit to her, a lot of moral courage to keep going.”

“I know that having a community so that she knows she’s not alone in her pursuit must have helped empower her to keep going,” said Siegal, who invited Kaplan to act as an extra on “A League of Their Own” TV series that is scheduled to be released this year on Amazon Prime Video.

Kaplan, who is on the 40-player practice squad for the U.S. Women’s Baseball National Team, would like to play in a professional women’s baseball league or reach Major League Baseball in some capacity. Until then, she said she will try to live up to the standard set by her predecessors and peers.


“It means a lot to see that I’m not the only one,” she said. “When I see all of those other people succeeding and doing really well, it means a lot to me, and it makes me feel really good for them and all of the hard work we all put in.”