Odds and Ends in Sports
“Girls Belong in Baseball”
The original plan of the first local girls-only baseball tournament organizers was to have multiple teams aged eight and older compete against each other. The Toni Stone Invitational Tournament last Saturday at St. Paul’s Dunning Field became a half-day baseball clinic for girls ages 7 to 14 as part of the Minnesota Twins’ “Play Ball Weekend.”
It also included a clinic at Minneapolis North High School (June 10), a Saturday morning recess for children ages 4-8 at St. Paul’s Neiman Sports Complex (June 11), an MLB Pitch skills competition, Hit & Run at the Twins ballpark. before the scheduled big league game (June 11) and a Special Olympics Minnesota clinic in Plymouth (June 12).
A low registration rate, however, prevented a similar tournament last week. Instead, a four-hour clinic for around 50 girls aged 7 to 14 took place last Saturday at Toni Stone Field, named after 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 MSR just before things got started: “These girls are talking about Toni Stone,” Falzone proclaimed. “That’s why we named her, and we chose to be here so girls and families can continue to learn 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 the clinic last Saturday.
“We just started working to find out more about Toni Stone,” said Tonifha Farmer of St. Paul, whose 10-year-old daughter Toniya was also in attendance. “She had no idea at first.”
Angelo Davis of St. Louis Park said his eight-year-old daughter, Georgia, was thrilled to be at a baseball event where all the players were women. “All the other girls play softball. She chooses baseball right now,” Davis said.
“Baseball and softball are really different games,” Falzone pointed out. “I think it’s cool to see these girls at eight or nine years old discovering the history of football. 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 it’s an opportunity to play the game they love with other girls,” said- she declared.
Farmer said her daughter is on the same baseball team as her nine-year-old cousin, who first played baseball last year. Her daughter started playing T-Ball when she was three years old, Farmer said. “I played baseball on Dunning Field when I was younger. Then I switched to softball.
Georgia is one of two black girls to play youth league baseball on her team, her father pointed out. ” She played [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,” Maheiliya said during a water break.
“We want to do this every year,” Falzone said of plans for next summer. “There will be a time when we have a full-fledged tournament with dozens of [girls] teams. And if a team is formed from the girls here in the dugout right now, that would be a win for us.
“Girls belong in baseball,” Davis said. “I wish there was a girls’ baseball league. But as long as she wants to play baseball, we’re going to let her play.
Charles Hallman is an award-winning journalist and sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.