National News

Woman who played professional baseball finds new career fighting fires

Posted May 17, 2018 1:15 p.m. EDT

— She has an area in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and has been interviewed by some of the greats, but now Ila Borders is saving lives and serving the community of Cornelius.

The lefty with a ponytail under her cap was the first female to earn an NCAA men's baseball scholarship at Division II Southern California College, now known as Vanguard University.

She went from college to the pros, debuting in 1997 for the St. Paul Saints of the Independent Northern League. After being traded to the Duluth Dukes, Borders became the first female winning pitcher in the pros 20 years ago.

She was interviewed by Jay Leno and Mike Wallace and even featured in Japan.

"I had a good change up, good screwball, good curve ball and threw the ball 83 (mph) with movement," Borders said.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame states Borders pitched in 52 minor league baseball games. The major leagues weren't calling, however, so at the age of 25 in 2000, Borders went in search of another career.

The trajectory of her life then changed with a pair of tragic events. Borders lost her grandmother to a drowning and lost her partner to a drunken driver.

She battled serious depression, but found a new life in Oregon.

Borders is now 43 and married again. She is in her third year as lieutenant and paramedic for the Cornelius Fire Department.

"There are so many similarities between firefighting and baseball. You have to work as an individual but you are still part of a team. Working out every day, getting along with each other and its sense of family and then service and you get paid to help people," she said.

Borders has lived a remarkable life with many chapters to come, but she felt compelled to put it all down in a memoir released last year titled, "Making My Pitch: A Woman's Baseball Odyssey."

Borders still coaches high school and college kids in the area and she will play in the Women's Baseball World Cup in August.

She's scheduled to throw out the first pitch for her beloved Los Angeles Angels next month, something she also did more than 20 years ago.

"There were always naysayers, it was pretty rough, but there was always the right person at the right time to help me out," Borders said.