by Clark Groome
The Taney Dragons Little Leaguers have had a summer unlike any Little League team in history. Their classy and intelligent response to extraordinary media attention has been impressive – better than that of many athletes years older than the 12- or 13-year-olds that comprise the first Philadelphia team ever to make it to the Little League World Series.
The media was driven by the appealing and admirable performance of Mo’ne Davis, the team’s one girl and an impressive athlete who pitched the team to two shutouts on their quest for the title.
Her team made appearances on “Today” and “Good Morning America,” was extensively covered by ESPN, NBC, CSN, ABC, CBS, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal along with receiving front-page stories for several days running in the Philadelphia Inquirer and almost daily front and back page photos in the Philadelphia Daily News.
Mo’ne was the only Little Leaguer and the youngest person ever on Sports Illustrated’s cover. Throughout the entire run, the kids displayed an uncommon maturity.
What was clear throughout was the support the kids got from their coaches, who refused to let the kids’ heads swell and emphasized the need to have fun regardless of the results on the field.
Their parents and thousands of Philadelphians enamored of the team – made up of kids from all over the city – were a loud and encouraging presence in Williamsport.
Their parents also seemed to keep things in balance. Baseball is fun, education is crucial, and maintaining that perspective is what has allowed the kids to enjoy their run without letting their egos turn them into young monsters.
The kids go to some of the best schools in Philadelphia, some at great sacrifice to their parents: Three go to Masterman and three (including Mo’ne) go to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, while one each goes to Germantown Friends School, St. Francis de Sales School, Penn Alexander School, the World Communications Charter School, McCall Elementary in Center City and Meredith Elementary in South Philly.
Last Wednesday the Phillies honored the Dragons with a typically classy ceremony that gave the kids the opportunity to take the same walk from the outfield that Charlie Manuel took when he was added to the team’s Wall of Fame in August and that the Phillies players take at the beginning of each season.
A tradition at these ceremonies is a lap around the field for the honoree. Usually it’s in a high-end sponsor’s car. On Wednesday there were some golf carts to take the team around the field. The Dragons eschewed the motorized transport and jogged around the field, high-fiving everyone in sight. Then the 12 members of the team simultaneously tossed out the first balls to their favorite Phillies.
The Dragons had a great summer. As a result, Philadelphia had a wonderful month with these impressive young people. But it wasn’t really about us. It was about them. Throughout their adventure they behaved with dignity, maturity and an appeal that was irresistible.
Now they are back where 12- and 13-year-olds belong: in school. If nothing else, they deserve the break and the time to reconnect with their non-Dragon friends. The entire city wishes them well.
On a related note: The day after the Phillies honored the Dragons, David Montgomery, the team’s president, began a medical leave. He had jaw-cancer surgery in May followed by heavy-duty chemotherapy and radiation. He is one of the most respected and best liked executives in Major League Baseball, and everyone who knows the Wyndmoor resident – friends, colleagues and neighbors – is rooting for him.