The Fox series is wrapping up its first season, but perhaps you’ve heard this story before.
For the past several weeks, Fox’s new hit series “PITCH” has shown us that it is possible for a woman to continue smashing through the glass ceiling in a male-dominated world—bat, beauty, and brains in hand.
The series tells the story of Ginny (Kylie Bunbury), a woman with beauty, brains and athleticism, who is groomed by her now-deceased father to play Major League Baseball. During the first season, we have seen Ginny become not only the first female Major League Baseball player for the San Diego Padres, but the best, and this is all done in her father’s honor who’s mantra was, “We ain’t done nothing yet.”
For the past several weeks, “PITCH” has shed light on a variety of challenges that affect women everywhere, particularly women of color. These challenges include the ability to simultaneously balance being an athlete, a responsible feminist, and evolving brand. In fact, many would argue that women—namely Black women—are constantly forced to prove their worth and abilities in our society, and this ever-present theme is reflected in the first several episodes of “PITCH.”
Fortunately for the show’s main character, she has allies in the dugout who protect her honor by making her an exemplary player, regardless of the blatant undermining sexism. And, although “PITCH” presents an exciting concept in the world of fiction, Ginny’s rise to fame as a fictional character isn’t as far from reality as you may think. Let’s travel back and take a closer look at the untold story of Toni Stone.
Dirt in the Skirt
Toni Stone made history in 1953 when she became the first female player in Negro League baseball. Stone, who was born Marcenia Lyle Stone, also played for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League—although segregated—and several Negro League teams.
And, although she negotiated her pay and established how she wanted to be treated as a professional athlete, Stone’s notoriety has dissipated into American history. This is drastically different from the stories of some of her white counterparts as portrayed in the 1990’s blockbuster A League of Their Own. However, her legacy lives on in both fiction and non-fiction black, professional, female athletes by inspiring us all to say, “I am next.”
Outside of its brilliant soundtrack and incredible writing, “PITCH” embraces the spirit of women empowerment and the unsung legacy of Stone with a main character who calls the shots. Even though Ginny receives guidance from her agent she also takes charge of her own life.
Instead of allowing people to tell her how to play the game, she decides how she wants to play the game and she plays to win. However, like Stone, Ginny is quite literally a team player and heeds the advice of her teammates to be the best against all odds.
No Crying in Baseball
As the story progresses Ginny becomes more and more like “one of the guys” and a true member of the team, with all of the baseball politics in tow. Ginny is very aware of how uncomfortable the atmosphere is with the novelty and jealousy, but she takes it in stride.
Like the real-life Toni Stone, Ginny is steadfast in her strength and keeps playing the game when adversity strikes her or the team. It was not easy to get her onto the mound, but all season long, she has been knocking it out of the park and captivating audiences everywhere. Most have never heard the story of Toni Stone, but thanks to both fictional and non-fiction female athletes like Ginny, her unsung legacy lives on. We ain’t done nothin’ yet!
The “PITCH” season finale airs Thursday, December 8, at 9/8c.
Mo’ne Davis (Photo Credit: People Magazine)
Mo’ne Davis has reached national prominence on the baseball field this summer. While most boys pitch in the high 50s or low 60s, she throws at 70 mph. Her skills have helped her team, the Philadelphia Taney Dragons, go undefeated thus far in the World Series in Williamsport, PA. Although she is currently recognized as the best in the little league, Davis says she doesn’t really like when the media places all of its attention on her. “I wouldn’t have made it this far without my teammates,” she says. According to WSJ, when asked post-game by ESPN how she handles excessive media fascination, she said, “I can always say no.”
As one of two girls in the World Series this year, Davis dominates the score boards. On Friday night, she became the first female pitcher to throw a shutout (the act by which a single pitcher pitches a complete game and does not allow the opposing team to score a run) in the Little League post season, and struck out 8 batters on Sunday. Her stepfather says, “She was pitching one day and someone hit a home run off of her, so she felt she needed to work on it more. And from there, it got to this point.” (NPR)
ESPN interviewed parents about how they view girls in baseball and most parents found it empowering for girls to be seen as just as good as boys on the playing field. One skeptical father of a middle school girl said that girls can get hurt by playing with boys. Yolanda Washington, two seats down from him, disagreed and said if her daughter “had the skills,” she would support her in baseball. “I’m excited that as an African-American girl, (my daughter) sees another African-American girl doing something so unique and positive.
If Davis continues down this path, she could definitely wind up in the actual World Series, having been compared to Philadelphia Phillies Jonathan Papelbon and Atlanta’s Ervin Santana. However, Davis plays other sports and has dreams of playing point guard at the University of Connecticut and of making it to the WNBA.
Regardless of the opinions of parents, and whatever she decides to play in the future, it is evident that Mo’ne is a role model for her generation and other little girls that might want to pursue a career in a sport that is normally considered a “male” sport.
An 11-year-old gymnast and Phillies fan who traveled from New Jersey to Philadelphia with her father to watch Davis play says she doesn’t seem stuck up, but just a girl with great confidence. “Mo’ne would be my role model if I was on a baseball team. She would be my role model even in general.” (ESPNW)
For years, I struggled to reconcile my passion for ministry and the marketplace. As a young minister, I found myself equally intrigued by the stories of great evangelists and the stories of entrepreneurs that used their influence to change the world. While the aspiration to be like the men and women I admired was immense, my reality painted a different picture. I was broke. Not only was I broke, but I faced the hard truth that I did not have the financial resources to accomplish what I felt God was calling me to do in ministry. Please don’t get me wrong, money does not make a ministry successful, but it sure does help. After all, the Bible states: “Money answers everything.” (Ecclesiastes 10:19).
As a Campus Staff Minister at a major Christian non-profit, I was tasked with raising a substantial budget to support the work of ministering the Gospel to students at Wesleyan University. After eight months of meeting with fundraising coaches and pitching the ministry to over 200 potential philanthropic partners, I was only able to raise half of my original fundraising goal. Little did I know that my failure to secure funding would be the catalyst to discovering my destiny in Christ.
Like many other young ministers, my desire to be an entrepreneur was distinctly separate from my desire to preach the Gospel. Because of this, I attributed my failures to lack of networks, lack of skill, and poor personal leadership, only to find that the deeper issue at play was that I was inauthentically engaging the call of God on my life. God called me to be a minister and an entrepreneur. In essence, an “EntreVangelist.”
I had spent nearly a decade preaching, serving on non-profit executive boards, traveling on missions nationally and internationally, and ministering in my local church. Yet, I never thought of taking the skills I acquired in ministry into the marketplace until I received what seemed to be a random call from a multi-millionaire asking me to work for him. He remembered my fundraising pitch from years ago. Now, it was his chance to pitch his multimillion-dollar project to me.
During the interview, I listened intently, mentally documented the areas needed for improvement, and made a suggestion that changed the project’s trajectory. Within a few weeks, I became the lead consultant. From that point on, I leveraged the skills I learned in ministry to lead a team of consultants, hire staff, and successfully pitch the project to city officials. While this opportunity transitioned me into a better understanding of God’s will for my life, I realized that I was internally conflicted by my desire to minister outside of the confines of the box I created around my calling. To address this internal struggle, I needed to clear up a misconception within myself regarding ministering in the marketplace.
Misconception: Ministry and the Marketplace Must be Separate
The misconception that deterred me from merging my skills in ministry and the marketplace was that I believed they were distinctly separate. Remember the story in the Bible where Jesus entered the temple courts and drove the money changers and merchants out of the temple? Well, for many that Scripture has been used to justify a separation between business and church; however, when one takes a closer look at Matthew 21:13, they will notice that Jesus declares: “My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.” This narrative focuses on the merchants and money changers perverting the House of God for personal gain. When Jesus forcefully redirects those exploiting the temple, He re-shifts the focus back to its primary use as a house of prayer. So, does this justify that the church and business should remain separate? The answer is no.
One thing to consider is that churches in America are legally and practically a business. Many, if not most churches have budgets, paid and volunteer staff, insurance, and boards of directors. In fact, the estimated hundreds of thousands of Protestant churches in America collect billions in revenue each year. They provide services, strategic planning, community development, networking events, conferences, and workshops that are considered valuable services in secular industries. A critical concept to understand is that the Church is a business and a ministry. As stewards entrusted with leading both, we should never forget that the primary function of the Church must always remain for the worship of God.