Taney comes up a winner, no matter what

Posted: August 22, 2014

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - What happened Wednesday night at Howard J. Lamade Stadium really did not matter. That would have been true even if Mo'ne Davis and the Taney Dragons had not been on the wrong end of an 8-1 score against a high-powered team from Las Vegas in the Little League World Series.

There will be a winner of this amazing event come Sunday just as there has been every year since 1947, and it's still possible that Taney will be that team. The degree of difficulty was raised considerably with Wednesday's loss, which set up an inner-city matchup Thursday between Taney and a team from Chicago.

Win or lose, however, this Little League World Series will forever belong to Davis and the Dragons. When they flash back to this international tournament two decades from now, it will be the kids from Philly and the girl with the electric arm and light-up-the-room smile that will be most remembered.

This was not a particularly special night for Davis or the Dragons. After overpowering a team from Nashville in her opening performance, she surrendered three runs in 21/3 innings, including a two-run home run in the second.

"She's entitled to an off night," Taney coach Alex Rice said. "I don't want to take away from the Vegas kids. That's a real good team, maybe the best team we've faced this year, but she certainly wasn't locating her pitches as she typically was. I don't think any of the distractions this week impacted that."

Davis still had her moments, striking out the side in the first and a total of six batters overall before giving way to Erik Lipson in the third. Davis cannot pitch in Thursday's game against Chicago, but she would be eligible to go again if Taney can get to a rematch with Las Vegas in the U.S. championship game Saturday.

Again, it does not matter because this will forever be the Taney Little League Series. Nothing screams pop culture right now more than the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and Davis, the cover girl on this week's Sports Illustrated. Rob Manfred, the commissioner-elect of Major League Baseball who will replace Bud Selig in January, incorporated the ALS challenge and an evening with Davis and the Dragons into his schedule Wednesday.

Manfred was coming here regardless of who was playing, but he was aware of Davis even before Taney reached the Little League World Series.

"My awareness was raised dramatically by probably one of my closest friends in the game," Manfred said.

He was speaking of Phillies president David Montgomery.

"Dave has been so all over this story that if I hadn't been aware of it, Dave would have made sure that I was," Manfred said. "He was carrying this stack of papers around at the owners meetings and I thought it was Phillies stuff. There was no Phillies stuff. It was all about the Little League story. It's just a great story."

Montgomery's scouting report?

"He thought she was pretty special - very, very special," Manfred said. "I think she proved that."

A reporter from Philadelphia could not resist the next question: "Have you asked [Montgomery] if he'd consider her as a September call-up?"

Manfred was also asked if he could envision a future in which Davis or some other female phenom becomes the first woman to pitch in the big leagues.

"Fifty years ago, people would have had a list of things women couldn't do and it was as long as your arm," Manfred said. "They are doing every single one of them today, so I'm not betting against the gender. I think it's really a great story for Little League and it's really a good story for diversity and equality. I think we should embrace it and hope that she continues to develop."

Actually, what the greatest hope should be for Davis and every kid who played on this neatly manicured diamond during the Little League World Series is that they continue to develop. Not just as baseball players and athletes, but even more so as human beings.

Here's an interesting tidbit: Davis was the youngest athlete to ever appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The previous two youngest were Tracy Austin and Jennifer Capriati, a couple of female tennis players whose careers never lived up to the hype. Austin's downfall was injuries, a common culprit in the ruination of young athletes. Capriati battled mental demons and drugs, and you have to believe that some of those problems were a result of being so hyped so young.

History tells us that the vast majority of these kids will not become big-league players, but here's hoping that nothing but good health and good days lie ahead for Davis and the kids from Taney. These days in South Williamsport and this summer will forever be etched in their memories. It does not matter a lick if they win or lose another game.


bbrookover@phillynews.com

@brookob

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