Friday, August 15, 2014

Mo'ne Davis and Philly's Taney Dragons ready to make history

Mo'ne Davis (pictured far right) celebrates with teammates after winning Mid-Atlantic regional.
 By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
August 15 2014, 7:00AM EDT.
@Philabaseball

Mo’ne Davis cracked a smile as she made her way down the last few steps of a tight stairwell in Volunteer Stadium prior to Thursday's opening ceremonies for the Little League World Series in South Williamsport.

“There’s the girl, that’s her,” said one parent, pointing directly at Davis. Others in the crowd took pictures and simply shouted her name.

Davis tossed a three-hit shutout in the Mid-Atlantic championship last weekend to secure Taney Youth Baseball Association a spot in the Little League World Series. The victory also catapulted her name to the masses as highlights of her performance circulated nationally, airing on ESPN and other major sports media outlets.

With her trademark braids thrashing beneath her cap when she pitches, the 13-year-old Davis has become an American sensation. In a sport populated mostly by boys, it’s she who dominates.

“Just having fun out there, that’s all I ever want to do,” Davis said.

The eighth grader from South Philadelphia routinely hits 70-m.p.h. on the radar gun with a lively fastball, mixing in a curve and knuckler for good measure.

“They strikeout and sometimes don’t even recognize she’s a girl,” said Taney coach Alex Rice. “That shows how good she really is, people are blown away when they see her play. She’s a one of a kind.”

Talk shows and media outlets from across the country have bombarded Davis over the past two weeks with interview requests as her story reads like something out of a movie script.

An honor student at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, Davis wakes up at 5:45 every morning to embark on a one-hour, 20-minute bus trip to school. She excels in the classroom and plays basketball and soccer.

“She brings the same intensity that she has in sports to her academic work,” Dr. Priscilla Sands, the president of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, told the New York Daily News. “She’s going to go far. There are no limits for this child.”

Based in downtown Philadelphia but playing on fields scattered throughout the city, the Taney Youth Baseball Association formed in 1994 and became a chartered member of Little League two years ago. Their berth in the Little League World Series marks the first time a club from Philadelphia has reached Williamsport.

The 12-player roster, comprised entirely of 12 and 13-year-olds, is as ethnically and racially diverse as the city it represents with most players residing in West Philadelphia and University City.

Their journey to Williamsport, on the diamond at least, was relatively easy as the team won 17 of 19 contests over the span of four different tournaments to reach the Little League World Series.

“I never thought it was possible this soon,” Rice said of reaching the World Series. “I didn’t think we had a chance yet being so new.”

As for Davis, she will become just the 18th girl to play in the Little League World Series when Taney opens bracket play on Friday afternoon against South Nashville. Even more importantly, she will become the first African-American girl to play in the tournament since its creation in 1947.

She's expected to start for Taney on Friday.

"I'm thrilled to be here," Davis said. "Now I just need to focus and do what I can on the field."

- The Philadelphia Baseball Review is the top baseball news source in Philadelphia, providing news coverage and analysis of all things baseball in the Philadelphia region.

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