Bronx Science junior varsity baseball coach Chris Dahlem lights up when he talks about his freshman first baseman. One story he likes to relate occurred at a recent practice.
“I was pitching to the kids,” Dahlem said. “I used to pitch in high school and I like to think I still got it. So she’s crowding the plate on me and I threw a fastball for a strike. Then I threw a breaking ball that I didn’t think she’d even touch, and she annihilated it to left field. So as she gets to second base I said, ‘That’s the last time I let you crowd the plate,’ and she started laughing. She was the only kid that day that ripped me like that.”
Meet Josephine Kinlan, slugging first baseman, cleanup hitter, and the lone girl on the Wolverines’ 15-man — make that 15-person — roster.
Kinlan’s addition to the Wolverines is no gimmick. Far from it. She is a baseball lifer, or as much as a 14-year-old can be. Kinlan began playing organized baseball at 8, and has grown to not only love the game, but excel at it. And she owes at least some of her success in baseball to, well, doughnuts.
“When I was about 4, I started playing softball, and at first I didn’t really like softball,” the righty-swinging Kinlan said. “But my dad made a deal with me one day after I kept complaining. There was a Dunkin’ Donuts near the field we played on, so he said I could get a donut after every game. So I played softball because I wanted a doughnut.”
Four years later, softball turned into baseball.
“When I was 8, the league I was in was kind of disorganized, so my dad started looking for other options,” Kinlan said. “He decided to try me in baseball.”
Kinlan played baseball in middle school before enrolling in Bronx Science this past year. And although she loves the game, getting on the team was a different story.
“The varsity tryouts were terrifying because the guys were much bigger than me,” Kinlan said. “They had a lot more power and experience.”
Kinlan did not make the varsity roster this season, but did open some eyes. In fact, a season on JV ended up being the right landing spot for her this season.
“I feel like making varsity would have been fun, but I may have gotten less playing time,” she said. “So I think JV was suitable for me.”
Going into the final week of the season, Kinlan is hitting a very respectable .273 with a .529 on-base percentage with a double, four runs scored and five RBIs.
“She’s one of the best players on our team,” Dahlem said. “It’s not just her skill set, but it’s also the way she approaches the game. She’s a coachable athlete, which is great, and she leads by example. As a baseball player, she just makes our team so much better.”
There have been no problems with Kinlan’s presence on the team, Dahlem added, not that he was expecting any.
“We haven’t had one single issue, because we set a rule from the first day that the best players are going to make the team and the best players are going to play and we’re going to support each other,” Dahlem said. “And what has made this team so enjoyable is that the team picks each other up and does not treat anyone else differently regardless of their baseball ability, what grade they’re in and, in our case, regardless of gender. The team is extremely supportive of her.”
Kinlan joked there was a reason for the boys to embrace her as a teammate.
“No one has been problematic, but I’m also taller than everyone on the team, so it’s kind of hard to put me down,” she said with a smile. “But sometimes I feel like the guys don’t always know how to act because it’s an unusual thing and people aren’t really used to it. But they support me, and they treat me just like another teammate.”
As her first season comes to a close, Kinlan says her foray into high school baseball has been a rewarding one and she’s looking forward to continuing her baseball pursuits next season.
“It’s really been fun, but I’m hoping to make varsity next year,” Kinlan said. “I could tell the varsity coach (William Ulrich) saw potential in me in tryouts, so that has made me encouraged and confident. So I definitely want to try for varsity next year. I think that would be a really great experience.”