by Kevin Dicciani
Close to a hundred fans gathered in the courtyard at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy to watch and cheer the Taney Dragons in the first game of the Little League World Series.
Hailing from South Philadelphia, The Dragons, in only their second year of Little League play, have snowballed into a local sensation after beating out 300 teams to win the state championship. Now, as the first Philadelphia team to play in the Little League World Series, the city is rallying behind them to bring the championship home from Williamsport.
Three players from the Dragons attend SCH – Mo’ne Davis, Jahli Hendricks and Scott Bandura. A banner on the side of the 25-foot outdoor screen hung with their names and another read “SCH Loves the Taney Dragons.” Their classmates and teachers lounged on the grass of the courtyard and enjoyed snacks and refreshments while watching the Dragons face-off against Nashville.
Matt Paul, of Matt Paul Sports, brought a group of children from his basketball camp to watch the game. He said in all of his years in working at SCH, this one of a kind experience is a great opportunity for Davis, Hendricks and Bandura, not to mention the city of Philadelphia.
“It’s really a lot of fun,” Paul said. “It’s great to get all the kids out here to root for their classmates, kids they don’t even know, the community, the city. It’s great for the kids to connect to other kids from other places — plus they get to compete on ESPN and get this kind of attention. It’s great to see the community represented.”
Sydney Crawford, a 10th grader and one of Mo’ne Davis’ friends, said how important the Little League World Series was for the SCH community, and particularly for Mo’ne herself.
“It’s really a big deal,” Crawford said. “Even though Mo’ne is younger than me, I really look up to her. She’s amazing at everything she does. And she proves that girls can do things just as well as boys can.”
One of Scott Bandura’s classmates, 8th grader Trevor Meyer, said that even though he’s not the biggest sports fan, he is nonetheless taken aback by the significance of the game.
“It’s pretty exciting that someone who is in my school and in my grade is in the Little League World Series and is up there on the big screen,” Meyer said.
Josh Budd, head of the Middle Schools, said the game and the gathering at SCH was special for everyone involved.
“This is one of the coolest things we’ve ever had here,” Budd said, who’s been at SCH for over seven years. “We’re out here with the community on a Friday afternoon, outdoors, watching our kids, and our city, play in the Little League World series on a big screen TV. How can you beat that? It’s great.”
To make the day even better, the Dragons ended up beating Nashville 4-0. Mo’ne pitched a complete shutout with eight strikeouts. She is the first girl in the tournament’s 75-year history to pitch a shutout.