When Brown University's baseball season starts in February, one of the players taking the field will make history. Olivia Pichardo, a first-year student from Queens, N.Y., will be first woman on the roster of a Division I college baseball team in the U.S.
"It's kind of crazy to know that I'm living out my dream right now and my ideal college experience that I've always wanted, so that's really cool," Pichardo said in a media release. She said being named to the team is surreal, as it has been her goal since eighth grade to continue playing baseball in college.
Pichardo walked on to Brown's team following tryouts and a grueling assessment process – during which she immediately impressed the head coach, demonstrating her abilities as an infielder, outfielder and pitcher.
"It's a workout common for baseball and allows us to evaluate athleticism and arm strength, as well as both offensive and defensive skills," said Brown baseball head coach Grant Achilles. "Olivia put together the most complete walk-on tryout I have seen from a player since becoming a head coach."
Making the cut is just the latest achievement on the ballfield for Pichardo. This year, the 18-year-old was named to the roster of the USA Baseball Women's National Team as a right-handed pitcher and outfielder.
Women have been making strides onto the rosters of baseball teams in recent years. In May, Kelsie Whitmore became the first woman to start in a game in pro baseball's Atlantic League, taking left field for the Staten Island FerryHawks.
Baseball For All, an organization that advocates for girls and women in baseball, keeps a list of colleges and universities that will consider talented players, regardless of gender. There are 8 women (including Pichardo) who are rostered to play varsity college baseball in the spring of 2023, according to the organization.
Pichardo will be a utility player in both the infield and outfield when the college season starts. She says when Achilles announced during an October team meeting that she had made the cut, her new teammates broke out into applause.
"I did not expect that at all — that definitely took me by surprise," Pichardo said. "Everyone was super happy about it."
And with any luck, she'll be far from the last woman to play college baseball at the highest level.
"I'm just really glad that we're having more and more female baseball players at the collegiate level, and no matter what division, it's just really good to see this progression," Pichardo said. "It's really paving the way for other girls in the next generation to also have these goals that they want to achieve and dream big and know that they can do it."