Taney pride in Philadelphia

Posted: August 13, 2014

IN THE HEART of South Philadelphia, winding through the Italian Market and convening at the intersection of 8th and Christian, sat Dewey LaRosa wearing a white-and-blue golf shirt that simply read "Taney."

While Center City's Taney Dragons, the newly crowned Mid-Atlantic Regional Little League champions, were riding from Bristol, Conn., to Williamsport yesterday afternoon, there was still work to be done. LaRosa and a co-worker at Triple-Play Embroidery - which he co-owns with his father - were hanging giant banners for the world to see.

They said: "Home of the Taney Dragons," with congratulatory words in between and the names of every player on the ends of the white, red and blue posters. Minutes after they were hung, local residents gawked at the reminder of the local heroes - currently, the best baseball team in the city.

And for LaRosa, who coaches Taney's Under-7 squad, is a Pee-Wee commissioner and is on the Taney Youth Association Board, Taney isn't going to the big dance for a pat on the back, there is a much bigger reason.

"It's not to survive, it's to win," LaRosa said yesterday afternoon. "When you show people that you can brush yourself off and get up and keep going like Taney has, you're going for it all . . . There's no doubt about it, if you ask Mo'ne Davis today, if you asked her if she's there to have fun or win, she's going to tell you she's there to win."

The Little League World Series begins Thursday, with Taney playing Friday. The Dragons will be led by Davis, their star ace on the mound, who possesses a four-pitch arsenal with a 70-mph fastball.

Although Davis will be the first female player in a LLWS game since 2004, when Meghan Sims flashed the leather at first base, she might not be the last, and isn't the only one in Philadelphia.

LaRosa, 42, coaches Sofia Meer during the year, another female infielder and gunslinger who models her game after Davis. There's a new era starting in Little League, and this summer, youngsters in the city aren't wearing only major league jerseys anymore.

"One of the stars on my 7-and-under travel team is a girl," LaRosa said. "She looks up to Mo'ne Davis. They don't want to wear [Chase] Utley and [Jimmy] Rollins jerseys anymore. They want to wear Mo'ne Davis jerseys. She's an incredible athlete and very composed, and in the biggest game in her life and Taney history, she pitched a complete-game shutout. That goes to show you how poised she actually is."

LaRosa and Triple-Play make all the jerseys for the Taney Youth Association baseball teams, which also explains why there are now two banners that decorate the red-brick building across from iconic Lorenzo's Pizza. LaRosa said after the team won, he had his design team whip up the large signs so everyone would know about their recent success.

Taney's big win won't just be remembered in Philadelphia. It marks the beginning of a new era in Little League ball for inner-city athletes. LaRosa mused that Rice might have known a few years ago, when he moved from Boston, that he had something special brewing in downtown Philly. Now they are on the biggest stage in baseball for 12- and 13-year-olds.

"Even as far back as when they were 10 when they started to get together, [Rice] might have realized he had something special," LaRosa said. "He's been with them a while and probably beyond that."

It might be time for Taney to get some new jerseys.

On Twitter: @TylerRickyTynes

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