Phillies watching Taney, too

Posted: August 19, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO - The first Little League World Series game played by a team from Philadelphia started early enough out west that the city's major league team got an opportunity to see what the buzz was all about.

"I saw the last couple of innings," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said of Friday afternoon's game in Williamsport.

"Pretty awesome," general manager and Philadelphia native Ruben Amaro Jr. said.

Amaro said the Phillies' organization is particularly beaming with pride because many of the Little League Taney Dragons, including star pitcher Mo'ne Davis, are products of the team's RBI program (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities).

"Rob Holiday is proud - as he should be," Amaro said of the team's amateur scouting administration director, also the club's RBI program liaison.

After finishing a five-game West Coast trip in San Francisco yesterday afternoon, the Phillies boarded their charter plane bound for Philadelphia, where the Little Leaguers are all the rage. Taney, Philadelphia's first-ever entrant in the Little League World Series, played their second game of the tournament while the Phillies were en route to the airport to return home.

Although they were unable to watch, the Phillies were rooting for the Dragons, while also reliving some of their own Little League memories.

"We ended up losing to Apopka [Fla.] and they ended up making it to the Little League World Series," Domonic Brown said of missing out on a trip to Williamsport. "Then, the next level up, we made it, I think that was the Senior Little League World Series. It was in Bangor, Maine. It was Steven Spielberg's stadium. I think we lost to Japan. It was cool, though."

Brown's said his most vivid memories come from the time his team - which stayed together from 7 years old on up - spent together away from the field.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," Brown said at his locker stall yesterday morning. "Over my coach's house at the pool, all of us playing basketball. Eating pizza . . . We actually went to Scotty's - like a Home Depot - and they bought what was basically a big Slip 'N Slide and we played baseball games on it with a Wiffle ball."

For Ryan Howard, the Taney Dragons remind him of what baseball is at its core: a game, where having fun trumps everything.

"That's what it's about," Howard said. "It's about being able to go out and being able to enjoy the game while you're playing the game. They're on the big stage right now and they need to enjoy it - have fun with it. It's just something that very few kids and very few teams get the opportunity to do. If I saw them, I'd tell them the exact same thing - go out there, play hard and have fun. Soak it all in."

Amaro was watching Little League World Series coverage the other day when there was a feature on the face of the Taney team, 13-year-old pitcher Davis. She became the first female in the 75 years of the tournament to throw a shutout when she two-hit Nashville (Tenn.) on Friday.

Davis' fastball was clocked at 71 mph.

"Throwing 70 mph at that age? I don't think I could pick up a baseball and throw 70 mph right now," Amaro said. "They did a show about the mechanics of the team, of the pitcher, and they equated it to the mechanics of [Jonathan] Papelbon, in maximizing her ability to [get behind the ball] . . . pretty interesting. They equate 70 mph [at the Little League mound distance] to a 90-mph fastball."

"She's been good - real good," reliever Mario Hollands said. "She can play with the guys. She has no problem doing that."

But Davis has been doing more than that, Howard said.

"She's truly gifted," Howard said. "To play at the level, and to be playing against the boys. And not only playing, but dominating. It speaks volumes of where we are today in sports, period. Before it was a huge deal, people saying girls can't compete with guys. She's holding her own out there."

Even the Phillies' resident flame-thrower, Ken Giles, who can dial up 100 mph with his fastball, has been impressed.

"I grew up with girls that threw hard," said Giles, a New Mexico native who said he was too good to play for Little League teams at age 13. "But what she's doing is pretty impressive. She's going to do great things."

No one on the Phillies ever played for a Little League team that advanced to Williamsport. Sandberg, a native of Spokane, Wash., said the farthest he traveled as a young baseball player was to Kelso, Wash., for state playoffs.

"It wasn't as big then as it is now," Sandberg said. "That's also what's impressive, the way they perform under those circumstances."

A national TV audience. Multiple Daily News cover shots in the span of a week. And the attention of the major league baseball team in town, too.

Even if the Taney Dragons don't win another game, they've already earned a big victory this summer as a program.

"Like Ryan said, just cherish every minute of it," Brown said. "It'll go by quick, and you never know if you'll make it back to that stage."

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21


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