Olivia Pichardo has made history.
The 18-year-old Brown University freshman from Queens, New York has become the first woman in NCAA Division I history to be named to a varsity baseball roster. The Rhode Island university celebrated the occasion in a press release, saying that Pichardo's "dogged determination" allowed her to make the team.
Pichardo has played baseball since she was a child, starting in kindergarten. In middle school, she played on travel and varsity teams, and in 2022, she finally tried out for the USA Baseball Women's National Team, a goal that had been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to her time on the field as a pitcher and outfielder, she interned with the New York Mets' scouting department.
Pichardo said that when she committed to attending Brown, she immediately set her sights on the baseball diamond and the school's team, the Brown Bears.
"For me, I always just wanted to play college baseball, no matter what division it was," Pichardo said.
According to the school, Pichardo participated in the team's walk-on tryouts in September, followed by a weeks-long assessment process that included intense workouts and practices with current players. In October, head coach Grant Achilles announced that Pichardo would be on the roster for the 2023 season, which starts in February. Brown University shared video of the moment on Instagram, which showed the team cheering for Pichardo as she smiled.
"It was definitely a surreal moment for me because it's something that I've wanted since eighth grade," Pichardo said. "It's kind of crazy to know that I'm living out my dream right now and my ideal college experience that I've always wanted, so that's really cool."
When the team's season starts with a four-series game at Georgia State University, Pichardo will serve as a utility player, meaning she can cover positions in both the infield and the outfield. She is one of 31 players currently on the university's roster.
According to Baseball For All, a nonprofit that works to improve gender equity in baseball, at least eight women will play on collegiate baseball teams in the 2023 season, but none at the Division 1 level Pichardo will be on. A record number of women were rostered on college baseball teams in 2020 and 2021, according to the organization, just over 30 years after Julie Crouteau made history as the first woman to play on a college team in 1989.
"I'm just really glad that we're having more and more female baseball players at the collegiate level, and no matter what division, it's just really good to see this progression," Pichardo said. "It's really paving the way for other girls in the next generation to also have these goals that they want to achieve and dream big and know that they can do it."