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17-Year-Old Knuckleballer Throws Rays Batting Practice

A few kids have thrown out the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game. Not many can say they've thrown major league batting practice. But that's exactly what 17-year-old Chelsea Baker did last night before the Tampa Bay Rays' game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Chelsea played for the Durant High School baseball team in Plant City, Florida, and she has a wicked knuckleball. She used it in Little League to threw two perfect games in 2010, and this season she got off to a 2-0 start with a 0.78 ERA. (She learned how to throw the knuckleball from MLB greats Tim Wakefield and Joe Niekro, who was her coach when she was a kid.) Those kinds of numbers attract attention, and Chelsea has been featured on ESPN, and when she played in a tournament in Japan fans there started calling her "Knuckleball Princess."

Yesterday, though, might have been the highlight of her young career. Chelsea was invited by Rays manager Joe Maddon to not only throw out the first pitch, but to toss some BP before the game. And she used the opportunity to test out her knuckleball on some of the game's best hitters: Jose Molina, David Price, and Evan Longoria.

The pros looked thoroughly confused by Chelsea's pitches, but Price got a hold of one and ripped it into the stands. And one pitch to Longoria got away from Chelsea and plunked the Rays star in the back. "I'm not going to forget that, ever," she said of the beanball.

But Chelsea's experience was more than unforgettable — it was historic. She is now the youngest woman ever to throw Major League Batting practice. "I've done a bunch of things, but this is beyond anything I could have imagined," Chelsea said.

Check out the Knuckleball Princess in action:

Photo: Chris O'Meara/AP Photo

chelsea baker tampa bay rays batting practice