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The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Q&A with first female NCAA Division I baseball player Olivia Pichardo

After joining Brown University’s varsity baseball team in 2022, the sophomore utility player became the first woman to play the Division I sport.

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In 2022 — the fall of her freshman year — New York-native Olivia Pichardo tried out for the Brown University baseball team, despite its historically men-only roster. Pichardo ultimately made the cut, joining the spring roster and becoming the first women to play NCAA Division I baseball in the division’s history. Pichardo also joined the USA Baseball Women’s National Team in 2022.

From April 13 to 14, Dartmouth baseball hosted Pichardo and the Brown Bears for a three-game series match-up at Red Rolfe Field, which the Big Green won. Dartmouth previously faced-off against Pichardo and the Bears last season, with Brown winning two of the series’s three games. 

The Dartmouth sat down with Pichardo after Brown’s loss to discuss her role as the only woman at the highest level of collegiate baseball. 

You were accepted into Brown and then you walked onto the team. What was that process like?

OP: I started doing the college baseball recruiting process in high school, so I was going to a bunch of different college prospect camps, individual colleges and identification camps. I had some offers, but none of them were really from colleges that I thought met the grades that I got in high school. I applied to 26 schools, actually. I found out that I got into Brown through regular decision and that was definitely my top choice for college, just because I really liked their open curriculum. 

I emailed Grant Achilles, the head coach of Brown baseball, immediately after I had been admitted to Brown and let him know that I was committing to Brown and intended to try out in the fall. I kept in contact with him throughout the summer of 2022, just letting him know who I am as a baseball player and as a person for him to get a gauge for how I would fit in with Brown’s cultural values — which are brotherhood, integrity and gratitude. With brotherhood, it’s the message that counts. It’s just being a good teammate. The name doesn’t bother me at all. 

I tried out in September, two weeks into my first semester of college. I played on the fall roster and then based on that performance, I ended up making the spring roster, which is for the actual team.

You said you applied to 26 colleges. Was Dartmouth one of them?

OP: It was not. I didn’t want to apply to every single [Ivy League school].

How did you react to finding out that you made Brown’s spring roster?

OP: The coaches actually said that we were going to have a regular team meeting in one of our football team’s auditoriums. Everyone didn’t think much of it. We went over a few regular team things, just talking about our progress throughout the fall. Then coach Achilles ended the meeting by making an announcement to the entire team that I had made the team. I was really not expecting it. Internally, I was very happy with that because that had been a goal of mine to play college baseball, no matter what division it was, since my freshman year of high school.

When you first made the Brown baseball team, you went viral on social media. What was that experience like?

OP: There were definitely a lot of people who approached me on campus saying, "I think you’re really cool and what you’re doing is amazing." To get that support from people who don’t know me was really encouraging. It definitely outweighed any sort of negative comments that I got on social media, which I don’t really read through. I got a text from the former manager of the New York Mets, Buck Showalter. That was pretty cool. The shout out from the MLB was really cool. I’ve never had an experience similar to that before, so it was definitely surreal.

In the Dartmouth-Brown game this past weekend, Dartmouth took the series. Do you have any thoughts on the games? 

OP: It was a tough loss. It’s unfortunate. There are a lot of different factors that go into a baseball game, and any one small mistake can end up being the decider of a game. That’s just how baseball is. Baseball is a true team sport. It’s all about doing your individual job to pass the torch to the next person.

Two Dartmouth baseball players, Nico Bañez ’26 and Milo Suarez ’26, played summer ball with the Sag Harbor Whalers with you. What was it like getting to know them?

OP: I really like Nico and Milo. They’re just great teammates and great guys in general. Compared to everyone else, they were quicker to accept me and treat me as one of them — faster than most of the other guys.

Was college softball ever in the cards for you, or was the goal always to play college baseball?

OP: It was always college baseball for me. I didn’t want to make a backup plan for myself so that I didn’t lose any sort of motivation for achieving my goal of playing college baseball. I did get a few softball offers for college, but I didn’t entertain any of them. 

What was your biggest inspiration when deciding to pursue college baseball? 

OP: I’m really the only person who has ever played baseball in my family. Baseball was just a sport that I happened to be good at since I was six years old. I’m a good self-motivator. I was also motivated by people telling me that I couldn’t do it. I would say now my biggest motivator is to encourage younger girls to keep playing whatever sport it is that they want to play, regardless of whether it’s baseball. 

How are you encouraging younger girls to play baseball?

OP: Initially, when I had made the team, I was in the mindset of: I’m not going to be active on social media. I’m not going to try to capitalize on my image. I’m just going to focus on being the best baseball player that I can be and ignore outside noise. 

But I eventually realized that there are a lot of younger girls who do look up to me, like how I looked up to baseball player Kelsie Whitmore when I first heard about her. 

I got an overwhelming amount of support after the news broke that I had made the team back in November of 2022. I got a lot of messages from young female baseball players just telling me how much it means to them. I guess the position that I’m in really matters. It is my responsibility to show that I do care about them.

The best way to reach [them] is social media. I am affiliated with the Women’s Sports Foundation founded by Billie Jean King. I got to attend congressional meetings regarding the implementation of Title IX. Those experiences have really helped me gain a broader perspective on fighting the inequities in women’s sports in general, not just in baseball.

Do you envision more women playing baseball, specifically college baseball, in the future?

OP: Yes, I definitely do. I already see a lot of really good young female baseball players’ talent. There’s a clear separation in overall athleticism in this younger generation of women baseball players, which I’m very excited for.

You are on the USA women’s baseball team. What is it like representing your country?

OP: It was a goal of mine since I heard about women’s baseball. To suit up and wear USA across my chest, is really cool. USA baseball does a great job of treating the women’s national team with just the amount of respect that they would give to any other USA national team across all divisions.

Where do you see yourself after college? 

OP: I’m not entirely certain yet. I’m studying business economics at Brown. Right now, I’m looking for remote summer internships in finance or consulting. It’s kind of tough having to play summer ball as well. My baseball development over the summer is going to take priority, but I am trying to find the right internships for me that are in line with my degree. 

Will your future include baseball?

OP: Possibly. I’m definitely going to try out for the women’s national team every year. I would like to stay affiliated with the Women’s Sports Foundation and continue to be an advocate for women’s baseball as well. But you know, whatever opportunities present themselves will present themselves, and I’ll evaluate from there.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.