Leagues Host 2023 Asian American and Pacific Islander Sports and Culture Symposium

NEW YORK — Kelsie Whitmore is on the rise. On May 1 of last year, as a member of the Staten Island FerryHawks, she made history by becoming the first woman to start in an Atlantic League game. She played left field that day and went 0-for-2.

But writing diamond history isn’t Whitmore’s proudest moment. Being a role model for everyday women is what quenches his thirst.

“I never had a wife that I could look up to growing up,” Whitmore, 24, said. “I’m proud to be able to represent younger women and hopefully inspire and motivate them.”

Whitmore shared this story with at On the Rise: The 2023 Asian American and Pacific Islander Sports and Culture Symposium, held Wednesday at the NBA office in New York. This was the sixth year of the symposium, an event jointly organized by Asian employee resource groups from the MLB, NBA, NFL and, for the first time, the NHL.

The symposium celebrated Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a mission to recognize the AAPI community in the sports world, while exploring the importance of sports and how they create community belonging. AAPI.

About 150 people attended the event, while many more watched on Zoom. It was moderated by author Min Jin Lee and panelists included Whitmore, WNBA player Kianna Smith, NFL official Lo Van Pham and Donny Khan, Senior Director of Hockey Development and Strategic Collaboration of the NHL.

Before the symposium began, Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai began by talking about his history in the sport since moving from Taiwan to the United States at the age of 13. Two uncles – one living in Texas and the other living in New Jersey – helped Tsai become a Cowboys and Mets fan respectively. Tsai loved the Roger Staubach era and was a huge fan of former Mets outfielder Lee Mazzilli and his famous field goal capture.

Tsai played football for Lawrenceville School in New Jersey from the age of 14. Then he tried out for the baseball team, but was cut. It was his first failure, he said. Not playing for the baseball team prompted Tsai to play lacrosse, a sport he supports at all levels to this day. He attended Yale Law School and played basketball at Payne Whitney Gymnasium.

“The real moral of this story is that I think sports are part of my experience that taught me to pursue my dream,” Tsai said. “If you think about it, if you play sports, every season there is a dream, the dream of beating a rival, the dream of winning a championship, the dream of scoring that last-minute batsman. These are the dreams that every child can live.

“…I don’t think you can fulfill your dream in class.” In class it’s like you get a B- for the whole year and then take the final exam, it’s not like you can pass and that brings you back to an A+.

“In sport, it’s very different. You can be the eighth seed and still be in contention for a championship. Thus, the dream remains alive. You have to be good enough during the regular season to get to the playoffs. But once you’re in the playoffs, you can chase your dreams.

Each panel member was asked to name their hero and how he or she influenced them in the sport. All four credited their parents, but Whitmore went further and chose Jackie Robinson, who was the first African-American to break the color barrier and play in the major leagues, and whose talent made him one of the best to play the game.

“As a woman playing baseball, I often feel lonely,” Whitmore said. “So being able to look up to him, growing up trying to pursue the game that I love despite adversity was something to keep in mind, especially with him.”

Whitmore first heard about Robinson through word of mouth, then researched everything she could find about the impact he was having on Major League Baseball.

“Hearing about the adversity he went through and coming out of it — and it was the same sport and the same passion — that’s really something that I admire,” Whitmore said. “The biggest thing he achieved was not giving up. It’s easy to give up. It’s easy to say I’m done. It’s hard to keep going when things are tough.

Whitmore is still with the FerryHawks as a pitcher and outfielder. Like everyone else, she has goals before the end of this season. It’s more than just posting impressive stats.

“My goal is to help motivate and inspire other people in gaming and with the things they are passionate about,” she said. “I want to encourage my teammates and do good numbers. I want to be the best I can be on and off the pitch. »

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