by Pete Mazzaccaro
City residents and nearby suburbanites are saying it out loud: “We finally have a successful baseball team in Philadelphia.”
The Philadelphia Taney Dragons Little League team, which as of this writing is two wins from the U.S. Little League World Series title and three from a world title, have captured the imaginations of nearly everyone with a pulse in the Philadelphia region.
Amid a slow summer in which the local MLB team seems destined to finish last, it’s nice to have a winner. In bars and restaurants everywhere, the LLWS is on the TV. It’s in the paper. Stories of players and teams are dominating national news shows where athletes are being interviewed everywhere from “The Today Show” to “Mike and Mike in the Morning.”
Locally, we have some reason to be proud as three of the team’s members – Mo’ne Davis, Jahli Hendricks and Scott Bandura – attend school at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. Davis, a rising 8th grade pitching sensation, has been the focus of attention with this teams success and for good reason: She is not only the first girl to pitch a shutout in the LLWS – she’s the first African American girl to play in the series.
The wonder that is Davis is a lot about why this team has attracted so much attention, not just in Philadelphia but nationwide. Davis represents a high benchmark for progress. She’s not only a girl playing what is traditionally a boys’ sport. She’s a girl succeeding – at times dominating – in a boys’ sport. At a time when so much of our news suggests that progress isn’t possible, the story of Davis is a welcome antidote.
The questions ahead for Davis are exciting ones, particularly if the team continues to succeed. Will she continue to play baseball? If so, will she move into high school and continue to compete and excel in a sport dominated by boys? Or will she be content to stick with basketball, a sport in which she is said to be even better? You can bet that conversation is already happening among many observing this year’s LLWS run.
After the LLWS concludes, many will continue to follow Davis’ athletic career and will see how it plays out. For all her admirable humility in national interviews and her reluctance to admit to being a role model – she is one. A big one for girls everywhere of any race, who have looked at glass ceilings in sports longingly, dreaming of making their mark in football, wrestling or baseball – sports in which they are told they just aren’t capable of competing. Davis is demonstrating that the glass can be broken, and that the break can be celebrated.
In 2014, Davis has shown that girls can compete with boys. Here’s hoping Davis and the Taney crew continue to win – for themselves and for all of us.