(LEX 18) — The Wild Health Genomes will make history this season with the first woman to play in the Atlantic League.
The team signed catcher Alexis "Scrappy" Hopkins on Wednesday. Hopkins has played baseball and softball most of her life and impressed team managers at the Atlantic League Professional Showcase over the weekend.
Hopkins said teammates on her men's league baseball team in Florida, the Purple Dragons, encouraged her to attend the tryouts.
"I had fun at tryouts and I did my best, which is scrap to it and I guess we're here today as a professional ballplayer!" Hopkins said.
Wild Health Genomes team manager Mark Minicozzi said Hopkins performed better than any of the other catchers at the tryout, catching 96 mph pitches with no problem. He called her a "perfect fit".
"She is coming in as the bullpen catcher, but she will have the opportunity to be active and get professional at-bats this upcoming season," Minicozzi said.
Hopkins said she played baseball when she was younger, the only girl on an all-star team. Later, she transitioned into softball. Later, she earned an academic scholarship to the Florida Institute of Technology and walked on to their softball team.
When her biomedical engineering classes became more demanding, she stepped away from the sport to focus on her studies but stayed active playing club baseball on a men's team. That continued until earlier this month when those teammates told her she should try out for the pros.
"A buddy of mine actually sent me the tryouts information a couple of months and I was like, 'Oh, you know, I don't know if I can do this,'," Hopkins said.
Now, Hopkins can add the title of "professional baseball player" to her already-impressive resume. She knows how much it means to be the first woman in the league, but she also looks forward to a day when it becomes ordinary.
"I am a huge proponent of women in sports, that's for sure. But I'm also a bigger proponent of, it doesn't matter, it shouldn't matter. It's not about me being a female that got me here. It's about my hard work, dedication, my professionalism, and how I fell in love with the game and just love playing," she said.
Her presence on the field could go a long way toward inspiring young girls to pursue their dreams in the sport. Hannah Jones is the only girl playing in the South Lexington Youth Baseball Babe Ruth League, the most competitive level of the league.
"I've got to put up with them. I have a brother, so I'm used to it," Hannah said.
Hannah said she has been to Lexington Legends games in the past and was impressed when she heard the Wild Health Genomes had drafted Hopkins.
"Girls can do anything that boys can do, pretty much," she said.
Hopkins will keep her full-time job as a software engineer helping to develop programs for VA Hospitals. She hopes her journey will push others to follow their passions.
"Opening these gates to allowing women in sports and anyone that has obstacles to face them, overcome them, and be able to dream their passion and live it, as Rick, the league manager said, to keep the dream alive, that's what I'm doing and I hope others do, too," she said.
The Wild Health Genomes open their season with a home game on May 3.