By the time Mo’ne Davis dug her cleats into the mound at Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport, Pa., on Wednesday night (Aug. 20), she was already a national sports star, teetering on becoming a household name to even non-baseball fans.
The fact that Davis and her Little League team, the Taney Dragons (of Philadelphia), ran into a buzz saw in losing to Mountain Ridge (of Las Vegas), 8-1, on Wednesday and Jackie Robinson West All Stars (of Chicago), 6-5, on Thursday almost pales in comparison to what the 13-year-old girl has accomplished with her team the past couple of weeks.
After using her 70-mph fastball to clinch the Mid-Atlantic championship with a shutout two weekends ago, making Taney the first Little League team from Philadelphia to ever make the World Series, Davis did it again days later, garnering the national spotlight for becoming the first girl to throw a shutout in World Series history last Friday (Aug. 15).
Setting that feat against the boys with unwavering confidence, Davis has become the new face for girl power across the country.
“Well, about girl power…girls are just better than boys,” Davis told BET.com with a smile. “I gotta keep girls up there on the same level of boys like, ‘You could do anything a boy can do.’”
In tossing the shutout last week, the 5-4, 111-pound pitcher instantly received Twitter shoutouts from such baseball all-stars as Andrew McCutchen, Mike Trout and Matt Kemp, who even questioned his followers about where he could purchase a Davis jersey. Basketball superstars Magic Johnson and Kevin Durant publicly praised the teenager as well…and that was just the beginning of her newfound fame.
By the time Tuesday had rolled around and Taney was one step closer to making the Little League World Series U.S. championship game, Davis got word that she would be gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated. Later that same day, she did national feature interviews for ESPN and BET.com.
Just before taking the mound Wednesday night, Davis and Taney received well wishes from their hometown Philadelphia Phillies and their star Jimmy Rollins, who tweeted: “#TeamTaney get that W tonight! Mo’Ne do your thing tonight girl!!”
She even got some Twitter love from Lil Wayne, who proclaimed, “YMCMB-Young Mo’Ne Cash Mo’Ne Baseball,” in support of the young star.
Wednesday night’s game received the highest television ratings for a Little League World Series game in the history of the tournament, with a 3.4 overnight rating. Lamade Stadium counted 34,128 fans in attendance, which was nearly 10,000 more than showed up at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia earlier that same day to see the struggling Phillies host the Seattle Mariners.
Although Davis struggled in the loss Wednesday, allowing three runs on six hits with six strikeouts and one walk in 2 1/3 innings, Taney still had a chance. However, it failed to defeat Jackie Robinson West in an elimination game Thursday night. Jackie Robinson West will face Mountain Ridge in the U.S. championship game Saturday.
Despite the shortcoming, Davis’s performance and spirit captured the heart and imagination of the country. She has helped transcend baseball by pushing young girls into the youth sports spotlight, letting them know that it’s okay to throw like a girl after all.
“I think absolutely the best aspect of this is the role model aspect for little girls,” Taney manager Alex Rice said. “A little girl from the other night was up at the press conference on her dad’s shoulders with a sign that said, ‘I want to throw like a girl.’ That kind of thing is really inspiring.”
Already an inspiration, Davis wants to inspire young girls even more and push the envelope further in the process. The eighth grader wants to prove that she’s good enough to earn a roster spot on a Division I college men’s baseball team and dare she say…a Major League Baseball team.
“It would be really, really cool to be one of the girls that’s pushing that forward,” she said.
In the more immediate sense, though, she’d like to see more girls participating in the Little League World Series.
“Every team here should have a girl on their team, so then it would be better and hopefully they’ll build another dorm for girls to stay in and get to know each other,” Davis commented.
That’s exactly what’s she’s been doing with Canada’s Emma March, the 17th girl to ever play in the Little League World Series.
“We asked to stay in the same house,” Davis said of her and March. “We talk a lot. We talk during the day and we talk a lot at night. We’re becoming close friends.”
The girl time is likely a nice escape from the norm for Davis, but that’s not to say she doesn’t appreciate her time with the boys.
On Tuesday, before Taney took on Mountain Ridge in the U.S. semifinals, the Philadelphia team was trying to unwind. Several Taney players were playing ping-pong at South Williamsport’s rec room—in which no parents were allowed—while others played video games.
When a handful of Taney players stepped outside the rec room on the grassy patch known as the Creighton J. Hale International Grove, many insisted “ladies first,” urging Mo’ne Davis’s to speak with a reporter before them.
In a way, the chivalrous gesture was the opposite of how Taney’s boys have treated Davis through the years—like one of the fellas.
“Being Mo’ne’s teammate is treating her like one of the guys,” said Taney second baseman Jahli Hendricks. “She doesn’t like to be treated separately. She likes to be treated just like us.”
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Check out the video for more from Davis and her teammates.
(Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)