For the first time in the history of the collegiate West Coast League, a female will be participating. Claire Eccels, a 19 year old left handed knuckleball pitcher, will suit up for the Victoria HarbourCats.
There is an interesting history involving females in professional baseball. Even if we ignore the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, we still have a good deal of history. 17 year old Jackie Mitchell struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig during an exhibition game, and played with the infamous touring House of David team.
In more modern times, Ila Borders was the first female to start a college baseball game in either the NCAA of NAIA, and received a scholarship before spending four years in the Independent Leagues. Just last year, Melissa Mayeux, a 16 year old French shortstop, made history by being included on the MLB international free agent list. It seems to be a matter of time before a major league team signs the first female professional baseball player.
Up in Canada, Claire Eccels may have taken the first step to being that player. The 19 year old lefty knuckleballer will participate in the collegiate West Coast League. When she appears for the Victoria HarbourCats, she will make history as the first female in the history of the league.
The plan for Eccels is for her to be used out of the bullpen. There, her knuckleball, which impressed both her catcher and manager, should be a weapon. Even though he has a fastball that sits in just the mid 70’s, if the knuckleball is on, Eccels could prove to be quite the challenge.
An outfielder for her college softball team, Eccels is no stranger to baseball. She made two appearances in the Women’s Baseball World Cup, and was a part of the 2015 Pan-Am Games. Eccels, understandably, has the goal of being the first female to reach the majors, hoping to ride her knuckleball to success.
It has been theorized that if a female would find her way to the majors, that it would be as a knuckleballer. Eccels obviously fits that belief, and as a lefty, she has another natural advantage. If she proves to be up to the task of challenging the players of the WCL, Eccels could put herself on the map in regards to a look during an upcoming draft.