An all-Black softball team dominated the All-Star Jennie Finch Classic
In its first appearance at MLB All-Star weekend, Toni’s Promise uses tournament to bond, show depth of Black talent
SEATTLE — This year, MLB held its fifth All-Star Jennie Finch Classic, named after Olympian and All-American pitcher Jennie Finch, as a part of the MLB All-Star week festivities. This year, Toni’s Promise, a team made up of the most talented African American high school softball players in the country, was created to compete at the classic.
On Monday, Toni’s Promise won the Jennie Finch Classic 7-1 against the Compton MLB Youth Academy after its first appearance in the tournament.
“It’s incredible [to see] the sisterhood that is created from this,” Finch told Andscape. “This is the first of so much to come. Seeing [Olympic medalist] Natasha Watley – being a sister to her – and her not having the representation, but now because of her these girls are the first all-African American team [at the All-Star Jennie Finch Classic]. What is a platform if you can’t use it for good? It’s a joy to see the fruition of it all.”
Toni’s Promise outscored its competition this past weekend 76-4, run-ruling every opponent up until the championship game when Compton fought for seven innings with the toughest competition Toni’s Promise saw all weekend.
Toni’s Promise was led by Tiffany Johnson, a Florida A&M and Georgia Tech softball alumnus, and Dana Stephens, head coach of the Georgia Bombers Premier travel softball team.
Dominating the competition, Toni’s Promise used the MLB All-Star weekend as a bonding opportunity and enjoyed the rare experience of sharing the dugout with a team full of Black women.
“The team is amazing, the way they just learned from each other and came together so graciously – not only the team but the parents,” Stephens said. “They are easy to coach.”
The Players Alliance, a nonprofit focused on leveling the playing field between baseball/softball and the Black community, led the creation of Toni’s Promise – named after Toni Stone, the Negro Leagues legend and the first woman to play pro baseball.
Many teams that competed in the Jennie Finch Classic belong to MLB Youth Academy, based in Compton, California, and there are also academies in Washington, and Kansas City, Missouri, among other cities. Toni’s Promise’s roster was composed of girls from all over the U.S.
“Toni’s Promise is a passion for a lot of us because many [of the girls] are from small towns. This team proves that talent can come from anywhere. Unlike the other teams, our girls will play together for the first time to compete at the highest level,” The Players Alliance founder Edwin Jackson told prnewswire.com.
The alliance also used Minority Softball Prospects and its expertise in Black college softball to help create Toni’s Promise and field a roster. The group is a product of Minority Baseball Prospects, which was started in 2021 during the coronavirus pandemic when founder and former baseball player Alex Wyche decided to create an initiative that would provide Black athletes with a community to help them achieve their athletic goals.
Minority Softball Prospects has been busy this year, launching the inaugural HBCU Softball All-Star Game, where 40 of the best women’s softball players from historically Black colleges and universities were invited to showcase their skills in Georgia. The HBCU Softball All-Star Game was just one of many events that the organization spearheaded, with the success of Black athletes in mind.
“Players Alliance has been, for lack of better terms; our ‘big brother’ in this industry,” said Osburn “Ty” Wyche, Alex Wyche’s brother and vice president and creative director of Minority Baseball Prospects. “We’ve been along with Players Alliance for a couple of years, and they know that we have a creative and talented portal of players. When they were thinking about doing the Jennie Finch Classic this year and putting the team in there, we had some ideas and we said we would just get all the players from our portal and create a team.”
Given its continuous involvement with Black athletes, working with the alliance to create Toni’s Promise was a rewarding task that aligned with their mission and goals.
“The girls are just more exciting to watch honestly. I love watching the girls play. They play with so much energy and they make the game that fun,” said Cameron Hollins, vice president of Minority Softball Prospects.
The players met in person for the first time when they stepped off the plane in Seattle. Although they just met, their team chemistry would lead you to believe that this wasn’t the first time the championship team was on the diamond together.
“Our team has meshed really well from the start,” said rising senior Precious Bross, a University of Georgia commit. “We all came from similar situations and backgrounds. It’s just a very relatable and healthy environment, honestly.”
The two common denominators for all the young women are being Black and extremely talented at softball. The roster was composed of 14 players, all committed to Division I universities and several Power 5 schools.
Catcher Corri Hicks and infielder Tia Milloy are both rising seniors committed to the University of Oklahoma, winner of the last three Women’s College World Series. These two both have older sisters who played in college and inspired them to play for the best team in the nation.
“I say my sisters [inspired me] – Amriah at the University of Washington and Kiki’s at the University of Tennessee right now and also in Ireland for the World Games on Team USA,” Malloy said. “Both of them did a really good job of holding me accountable when I was younger. They always made sure that I was doing my work. They’re showing me good examples and stuff like that. I always wanted to be exactly like them.”
With their sisters inspiring them daily, from a young age they recognized the importance of their participation in the sport.
“All little girls just want to see someone who looks like them playing the sport that they really love because, at the end of the day, we all just love softball,” Hicks said. “Whether you play at a certain level or if you’re one of the best players in the country, you want to be out there and if you’re a little girl, you just want to see someone who just looks like you doing it really well.”
When asked about the future of Toni’s Promise, Hollins told Andscape that “it’s to be announced.”
“I say we got the best team in the country,” said Hollins. “I’m excited to say that I think these are the best girls in the country. Black, white, brown or yellow or green.”