Saturday night marked the debut of This Is Us, the team made up of former Scrap Yard Dawgs players. Following Monday night’s controversy, the players walked out on their former organization, and within just a few days’ time, the group of athletes had rebranded themselves into a unit known simply as This Is Us.
When they took the field against the USSSA Pride on Saturday night, This Is Us players sported new jerseys. Reflecting their new team branding on the front, the backs of the jerseys gained significant attention for one particular reason: Each of the players’ nameplates displayed the surname of a current or former black softball player. While This Is Us earned the 3-1 win over the Pride, there was much more than softball happening on Saturday night.
More than just random names, the group of represented players included some of softball’s all-time greats. In case you were unfamiliar with any of them, we’ve assembled mini-bios for all fourteen players displayed.
MJ & Shay Knighten (worn by: Samantha Show)
Show’s jersey read simply “Knighten”, and the Knighten sisters are one of the best offensive sibling duos to play the sport of softball. During her career at Nebraska, MJ Knighten engraved her name throughout the program’s record books, finishing her career in the top 10 in ten different statistical categories. A 4-year starter at third base, she was the first four-time All-Big Ten selection in Huskers program history. She was a first-team All-American in 2016 and is now an assistant coach at San Diego.
Shay Knighten was on the other side of the field on Saturday night, suiting up for the USSSA Pride. During her own playing career at Oklahoma, the younger Knighten sister earned the nickname Big Play Shay thanks to her clutch hitting and postseason heroics. A .360 career hitter, Knighten hit 42 home runs and drove in nearly 200 runs during her college career. She was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2017 Women’s College World Series; was named to the All-Tournament Team in ’16 and ’17; and was the 2017 Big 12 Player of the Year.
Olivia Watkins (worn by: Hannah Flippen)
As a player at Western Kentucky, Watkins was known for her speed and ability to get on base. Twice an all-region selection, she batted .380 during her college career and set program records for that category, as well as stolen bases. She became the first-ever WKU grad to sign with a National Pro Faspitch team after being drafted in 2014; she currently works as an assistant coach at Boston College.
Shannon Rhodes (worn by: Riley Sartain-Vaughan)
The only active collegiate player represented on Saturday night, Shannon Rhodes began her playing career at Oregon before transferring to Texas. As a freshman at Oregon in 2017, she earned a nod to the conference’s all-freshman team and was named the MVP of the Eugene Regional that same year after batting .778 in three games. She ended her two-year Ducks career with a .342 batting average and 77 runs scored; after arriving at Texas, Rhodes batted .417 during the 2019 NCAA tournament, recording a Longhorns team-high 11 RBIs.
Breanna Dozier (worn by: Ashley Walters)
Walters’ former teammate at Texas A&M, Dozier played for the Aggies from 2013-16. owned a career .237 batting average, nineteen home runs, and sixty-two RBIs. Her finest season at the plate came in 2015, when she recorded a slugging percentage of .529. A native of Rowlett, Texas, during her collegiate career, Dozier was the only black student-athlete on her team’s roster.
Iyhia McMichael (worn by: Cat Osterman)
On Saturday night’s live stream broadcast, analyst Megan Willis noted that McMichael and Osterman played travel ball together. As a collegiate player at Mississippi State, McMichael helped rewrite the program’s record books, adding her name in the top two of six statistical categories in program history. Twice named the SEC Player of the Year (’03 & ’04), McMichael finished her career as a Bulldog with a .382 batting average and 37 home runs. She was named the NPF’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2004 and won the league’s batting title that same year.
Peaches James (worn by: Taylor Edwards)
James is one of just three Nebraska softball legends to have their names enshrined in the program’s athletics Hall of Fame. A 2018 inductee, James led her team to not only successful heights as a unit, but also put together a stellar playing career in her own right. The victor of 98 career games, James finished her career with a 1.19 ERA and 945 strikeouts; she ranks in the top two in program history in seven statistical categories and earned all-conference honors in each of her four seasons in Lincoln. The 2004 Big 12 Player of the Year, James was also named the Most Valuable Player of the conference tournament that same year. Her #42 jersey was retired by her alma mater in 2010; following her collegiate playing days, she spent four seasons playing professional softball.
Kiki Stokes (worn by: Kiki Stokes)
The only player to wear her own jersey, Stokes is one of two black players on the This Is Us roster, and the only one on the team’s active roster. An outspoken advocate even before the Scrap Yard controversy, Stokes’ voice has been a leading one as This Is Us began their rejuvenated efforts. As a player in her own right, Stokes had a quality career at Nebraska, including being named an All-American in 2015 and ’16. She ended her career with the Huskers with a .350 batting average, and holds the school record with an even 200 runs scored. She helped propel the Nebraska squad to the Women’s College World Series in 2013, and as a senior, she became just the third player in program history to bat over .400 in back-to-back seasons. Stokes had been a part of the Scrap Yard franchise since being drafted by the team in 2016, and in addition to her professional playing career, works as an assistant coach at South Dakota State.
Kayla Winkfield (worn by: Keilani Ricketts)
During her playing career in the maroon and white of Mississippi State, Winkfield established herself as a game-changer due to her speed on the base paths and really came into her own in the latter portion of her time in Starkville. After stealing thirty bases in her first two seasons, Winkfield batted .331 as a junior with thirteen extra base hits. During her senior season in 2016, Winkfield led the SEC with six triples and batted .330 with 36 runs scored and 17 stolen bases that season.
Elantra Cox (worn by: Kylan Becker)
Becker sported the name of her former teammate in Cox, who enjoyed a stellar playing career at Ole Miss from 2015-18. The only black athlete on the Rebels’ softball roster during the latter portion of her career, Cox was part of the 2017 Ole Miss squad that won the SEC Tournament championship. She was the first player in program history to earn three all-region honors during her career, and ended her career as the program’s career record holder in four statistical categories, including batting average and runs scored. In 2017, Cox set a new program single-season record and led the NCAA with 93 hits to her credit; she set the program’s single-season record for runs scored that same year. Cox is now an assistant on the coaching staff at Blue Mountain College in Mississippi.
India Chiles (worn by: Aubrey Leach)
Not only one of the most underrated athletes in SEC history, Chiles has also been one the fiercest advocates for progress and change during the recent equality movement. During her playing career for the Lady Vols from 2004-07, Chiles helped lead the program to a trio of Women’s College World Series’ and was named the SEC Player of the Year in 2007. As a senior in ’07, she batted .459 with 57 runs scored and 44 stolen bases. She was named a first-team All-American and earned a nomination to the All-Tournament team for both the WCWS and the SEC Tournament. After spending two seasons as the volunteer assistant coach at her alma mater, Chiles now runs her SlapperNation company.
Michelle Moultrie (worn by: Aubree Munro)
A 2012 graduate of Florida, Moultrie is part of the Team USA roster that will take the field in Tokyo next year. Moultrie owns four gold or silver medals from the Women’s World Championships, including a gold from the 2016 tournament when she batted .524 and recorded nine RBI, scoring eleven runs. During her time as a collegiate athlete, Moultrie earned a quartet of All-SEC honors, including a nomination to the all-freshman team in 2009. An All-American in 2011 and 12, she was named the Co-Most Outstanding Player of the 2011 Women’s College World Series and was the SEC Player of the Year in 2012.
Tori Tyson (worn by: Ally Carda)
Though a back injury during her collegiate career prohibited her from the playing career that could have been, Tyson has become well-known after entering the coaching ranks. During her playing days, Tyson spent the first two years of her career as a pitcher before injury forced a mid-career reset and she spent the final two years of her career as an outfielder. Tyson’s coaching career has seen her serve as an assistant at Bethune-Cookman; Cal State Fullerton; and Maryland, and she now is the head coach at Howard.
Natasha Watley (worn by: Sam Fischer)
Watley’s exclusion from ESPN’s recent fan-voted Greatest of All-Time poll was met with widespread outrage, underscoring not only the stellar playing career that she had, but also her continued impact on the game. As a sophomore in 2001, Watley earned All-American honors and stole 32 bases to set a then-program record. She would go on to become a 4-time All-American during her career, and helped lead the UCLA Bruins to the 2003 national title. As a junior, Watley led the nation in hits with 112. The 2003 Pac-10 Player of the Year, Watley was named both the Honda Sports Award and the Honda Cup winner, honoring her as the nation’s top softball player and female athlete, respectively. She finished her playing career with her name atop four program career records, including hits and runs scored. She was the first player in UCLA program history to post multiple seasons of 100 hits or more; for her efforts and following her stellar career, Watley was inducted into the UCLA athletics Hall of Fame in 2014.
Part of the greatest era in Team USA softball history, Watley led the 2004 Olympic team in three statistical categories, including hits and stolen bases, and helped lead the squad to a gold medal in Athens, Greece. Watley also set a new Olympic record with five stolen bases during the ’04 Games. During the 2008 Olympics, Watley again heavily contributed to Team USA’s efforts, batting .321 and agagin leading the program in a pair of categories. A career .394 hitter during eight seasons in the National Pro Fastpitch league, Watley stole 85 bases and scored 214 runs during her career as a professional player. Watley was the first player in league history to reach the 300 career hit plateau.
Nerissa Myers (worn by: Monica Abbott)
Myers was one of the best hitters to come out of a Louisiana-Lafayette program that is known for top-level offense. Myers set the Cajuns’ career record for runs scored, crossing the plate 243 times during her career. She was named an All-American in 2012 and led the nation in runs scored that same year, and earned three consecutive All-Sun Belt honors from 2011-13. During Myers’ collegiate playing career, the Cajuns appeared in a trio of Super Regionals, and reached the NCAA tournament in all four seasons. She later went on to play professionally, and was named the Offensive Player of the Year of the National Pro Fastpitch league in 2014.
(Correction: An initial version of this article incorrectly identified Jade Rhodes as the player represented by Riley Sartain-Vaughan’s jersey. We were made aware of the error on Monday morning, and have since corrected the article with the appropriate bio. In lieu of simply removing Jade Rhodes’ mention, however, we have included it here: “During her playing days at Auburn, Rhodes was part of the Auburn resurgence and played twice in the Women’s College World Series. She was named to the All-Tournament Team in 2016, the same year that she was named a 3rd Team All-American. Rhodes earned a pair of all-conference and all-region honors during her career, and was a rock at first base for the Tigers. A career .338 hitter in college, she went to enjoy a 4-year career in the professional ranks.”)