On most spring and summer evenings, the college little league field in Jersey City, N.J., is a busy place. Moms and dads jam the leftfield bleachers, a hot dog costs only a buck, and the war cry is "Hey, get some entoosiazm out dere!"
That cry is never directed at SI reporter Kelly Whiteside, a New Jersey native and the manager of Vinnie's Pizza, a Softball team of eight- to 12-year-old girls that calls the field home. "Working with this team reminds me of when I was a kid," says Whiteside. "We used to play in the streets until the fire bell rang at six o'clock, and then we'd all go home for dinner. These days, I go from work to home to the gym, where I work out on a StairMaster. It's so solitary. That is what's great about coaching. I'm having the time of my life with a bunch of kids."
"Besides never getting mad," says Vinnie's ace, 11-year-old Megan Fitzpatrick, "the great thing about Kelly is she buys us pizza whether we win or lose." Indeed, after a 1-5 start this season, Whiteside didn't get mad. Instead, she emulated Oakland A's manager Tony La Russa's analytical methods by charting ground balls. When she found out how many were being hit to the right of her third baseman, she decided it was better to have a southpaw at the position. Vinnie's bounced back to win four of the next six games.
When not poring over her scorebook, Whiteside, who is one of our four baseball reporters, is usually fact-checking a story or writing one herself on subjects ranging from Miami high school baseball phenom Alex Rodriguez to the New Jersey Nets Girls. To prove her point that dance squads are silly and don't belong at NBA games, Whiteside willingly humiliated herself by trying out for the Girls. She didn't make the squad, but her story appeared in our Nov. 2, 1992, issue.
Whiteside's athletic career began as a softball player in the second grade. The next year soccer became her sport, and she chased the ball for her team, the Lollipops, with the same intensity she now chases a story. "I was the kid who dove headfirst into the goalpost trying for a header," she says. Years later, the soccer player became the sports editor of the Rutgers Daily Targum, and eventually the paper's editor in chief. Before joining SI in 1991, she earned a master's from Columbia's school of journalism, where she wrote a story for a school publication about a financially strapped youth baseball league in the Bronx. A member of the New York Yankee front office read the piece, and the Bronx Bombers donated $2,000 in equipment to the league. "That's the best thing I've done in journalism," says Whiteside. "I felt like I had made a difference—just like, and I know this sounds corny, when one of my girls listens to me and gets a hit for the first time."
Whiteside and her players have loads of "entoosiazm."