Taney's players enjoy their celebrity in Williamsport

Jared Sprague-Lott (12) reaches for a ball thrown to the Taney Little Leaguers during the Williamsport parade. Fans wanted autographs.
Jared Sprague-Lott (12) reaches for a ball thrown to the Taney Little Leaguers during the Williamsport parade. Fans wanted autographs. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 15, 2014

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - Outfielder Zion Spearman remained still Wednesday night as the Japanese players grabbed the flat brim of his cap and bent it sharply like theirs.

He laughed as they measured their white cleats up against his sneakers. The Japanese clasped Spearman's hands and tried unsuccessfully to break free from his grip.

The Taney Dragons slugger created intrigue as the team waited its turn to cruise down Fourth Avenue in the annual Little League World Series Grand Slam Parade. After the Japanese bent Spearman's brim, his teammate Kai Cummings bent his own to match. Tai Shanahan grabbed one of the Japan caps and straightened its brim in the style of Taney.

"It feels good," Spearman said about being a pseudo-celebrity at the World Series. "But I just let my playing do the talking. People can judge me on how I play the game."

The 75th Little League World Series begins Thursday, but the Mid-Atlantic Regional champions from Center City will not play until Friday at 3 p.m. against South Nashville.

Many from the town of roughly 30,000 began lining the street in the afternoon, with people marking their spots by leaving behind lawn chairs. The parade mixed in mascots, firefighters, string bands, and even local bankers.

The main draw was the baseball teams, and they saved Taney for last. The Dragons boarded their float about 8 p.m., two hours after the parade's start.

The Taney float did not reach the parade announcers until about 9 p.m. The crowd, which had thinned out, tossed baseballs at the players for them to sign.

Taney's family members are not expected to arrive until Thursday or Friday. The team has not been home in two weeks. The Dragons left July 30 for the Mid-Atlantic Regional tournament in Bristol, Conn., and boarded a bus straight to Williamsport after winning the regional final on Sunday. They were the last team to arrive and had not had access to a field as of Wednesday.

The Dragons spent Monday doing promotional work and being fitted for new uniforms. Tuesday and Wednesday were marred by rain, limiting Taney to batting practice in the covered cages. The layoff could be a welcome respite for a team that manager Alex Rice said had played baseball almost every night since last Labor Day.

"But none of the parents made them or told them [to play]. I didn't, either," Rice said. "They did it because they wanted to get here. They wanted to be prepared to get here. There was a night when I didn't have anything planned and someone would be like, 'Why aren't we hitting?' "


Staff writer Melissa Dribben contributed to this article.

mbreen@phillynews.com

@matt_breen

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