(NEW YORK) — Brown University first-year student Olivia Pichardo made history by becoming the first woman in history to play Division 1 college baseball.
Pichardo spoke with ABC News’ Stephanie Ramos about how she has persisted and achieved success, the biggest challenges she sees for the future and what her message is for other woman and girls in the sport.
PRIME: Joining me now is Olivia Pichardo. Welcome to the show. So nice to meet you.
PICHARDO: Hi. Thank you for having me.
PRIME: Of course. So I just mentioned that you were a walk-on trying to get a spot on the baseball team roster. What were your expectations when you went to the tryouts and then the practices? Did you think you had a shot?
PICHARDO: Yeah. I mean, ever since I knew that I was coming to Brown, I was just giving myself positive reinforcement, just saying that I’m going to make the team and just not having any doubt in my mind.
PRIME: What was it like the moment you heard that you made the team?
PICHARDO: It was pretty surreal. Yeah, I mean, my face didn’t show that much in the video, but that’s just my demeanor. It’s just how I am. But yeah, it was nice to know that all the hard work that I put in really paid off.
PRIME: Yeah, so let’s go back a bit. You’ve been playing baseball since you were a young child, five-years-old… When did you realize that it was unusual, that very few girls were competing in baseball when a lot of the other girls were playing softball? When did you realize that difference?
PICHARDO: Well, when I was little, I didn’t really see, I guess, I didn’t see gender or whatever. But it started to actually settle in much later when I was 14. And when, you know, kids start talking more in school and, you know, just getting a little bit meaner. But yeah, I would say around 14 years old is when it started to hit me that what I’m doing is really out of the ordinary.
PRIME: Yeah, and even those negative comments didn’t stop you. None of it discouraged you from playing baseball.
PRIME: What’s it been like being on the team? How have your teammates treated you?
PICHARDO: Yeah. Everyone has been super welcoming and a lot of them reached out to me after the news broke, just telling me that they’re in my corner and they have my support, you know, through all the online skeptics that there might be. So, yeah, they treat me just like they would each other.
PRIME: That’s really good to hear. Your college baseball season starts in February– what do you think will be the biggest challenge ahead, not only as a student-athlete in your first year, but as someone who will have a lot of the focus on your performance on that team?
PICHARDO: The biggest challenge, I would say, is just to stay within myself and to try not to let the moment get too big and, you know, just try to get into a good mindset and whatever I’m doing in that game.
PRIME: You truly are an inspiration. Despite the naysayers, you stuck with it and you’re living out your dream. And I applaud that, I mean, that’s huge. What is your message to other women and girls who want to participate in sports that are traditionally reserved for boys, like baseball?
PICHARDO: I would say to just keep playing the sport that you love and to not let anyone else affect that decision. Whether you start and stop playing, that sport should be solely on your own terms and not because anyone told you otherwise.
PRIME: Good advice. Olivia Pichardo, thank you so much for joining us and for taking some time out of your busy school life. We’ll let you get back to it. And good luck with finals coming up.
PICHARDO: Thank you so much.
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