Sports Odds & Ends
‘Girls belong in baseball’
The first local all-girls baseball tournament organizers’ original plan was to have multiple teams ages eight and up compete against each other. The Toni Stone Invitational Tournament last Saturday in St. Paul’s Dunning Field instead became a half-day baseball clinic for girls ages 7-14 as part of the Minnesota Twins’ “Play Ball Weekend.”
It also featured a clinic at Minneapolis North High School (June 10), a Saturday morning playtime for children ages 4-8 at St. Paul’s Neiman Sports Complex (June 11), an MLB Pitch, Hit & Run skills competition at the Twins ballpark prior to the scheduled big league game (June 11), and a Special Olympics Minnesota clinic in Plymouth (June 12).
A low sign-up prevented a similar tourney last week, however. Instead, a four-hour clinic for an estimated 50 girls ages 7-14 was held last Saturday at Toni Stone Field, named for the late Toni Stone, who grew up in St. Paul’s Rondo and became the first woman to play in the Negro Leagues.
Twins Youth Engagement Manager Chelsey Falzone told the MSR just before things got started, “These girls are talking about Toni Stone,” proclaimed Falzone. “It’s the reason we named it after her, and we chose to be here so girls and families can continue to know who Toni Stone is and what she meant to baseball and Minnesota.”
“I didn’t know who Toni Stone was,” said Perri Rittman, whose eight-year-old niece Maheiliya was among the handful of Black girls at last Saturday’s clinic.
“We just started working on learning about Toni Stone,” said Tonifha Farmer of St. Paul, whose 10-year-old daughter Toniya was there as well. “She had no clue at first.”
Angelo Davis of St. Louis Park said his eight-year-old daughter Georgia was excited to be at a baseball event where all the players were female. “All the other girls play softball. She chooses baseball for right now,” said Davis.
“Baseball and softball are truly different games,” stressed Falzone. “I think it’s cool to see these girls at eight years old, nine years old learn about the history of the game. We want them to know the game of baseball.
“A lot of these girls play baseball, but a lot of them are the only girl on their team or in the league, so this is an opportunity to play the game that they love with other girls,” she said.
Farmer said her daughter is on the same baseball team as her nine-year-old female cousin, who played baseball for the first time last year. Her daughter started playing T-Ball at age three, Farmer said. “I played baseball on Dunning Field when I was younger. Then I switched to softball.”
Georgia is one of two Black girls playing baseball in her team’s youth league, her father pointed out. “She has been playing [baseball] for three years,” he said, and also plays basketball and soccer.
Said Rittman of her niece, who is a member of the North Commons Bulldogs in North Minneapolis, “She wanted to play baseball with her brothers. I love it because it teaches her life skills and she can have fun.”
“I usually play first base, shortstop and third,” said Maheiliya during a water break.
“We want to do this every year,” declared Falzone on plans for next summer. “There will be a time when we will have a full-blown tournament with dozens of [girls] teams. And if a team is formed out of the girls here in the dugout right now, that would be a win for us.”
“Girls belong in baseball,” said Davis. “I wish there was a girls baseball league. But as long as she wants to play baseball, we are going to let her play.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.