Taney Dragons are home, but not for long

Taney Dragons' Little League pitcher Mo'Ne Davis tips her cap as she is introduced by Mayor Nutter during a welcome-home rally for the 12 baseball phenoms at LOVE Park Sunday, August 24, 2014. AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer
Taney Dragons' Little League pitcher Mo'Ne Davis tips her cap as she is introduced by Mayor Nutter during a welcome-home rally for the 12 baseball phenoms at LOVE Park Sunday, August 24, 2014. AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer
Posted: August 26, 2014

The Taney Dragons' Little League season is over, but the celebration of their talent and pluck is in full swing.

Following Sunday's welcome-home rally at LOVE Park in Center City, the 12 baseball phenoms (and their faithful, slightly frazzled parents) will be honored Wednesday with a parade and a Major League Baseball tribute.

In between, Philadelphia's first team to compete in the Little League World Series in South Williamsport is scheduled for a number of media appearances, including Monday morning on NBC's Today show.

"Tonight we're supposed to get on a bus and go to New York City" to be ready for the show, Quyen Shanahan, mother of outfielder Tai Shanahan, said on Sunday. "It's really amazing."

Shanahan had to yell to be heard over hundreds of ecstatic Philadelphians who greeted the team - fresh off a Trailways bus from Williamsport - with music, cheers, cameras, speeches, and even a line dance dubbed the Taney Shuffle.

"It's Taney fever at LOVE Park," Mayor Nutter declared.

The Rocky theme blared as the players filed off the bus and into the Fairmount Park Welcome Center to visit with their parents. Nutter then led the Little League World Series stars onto the stage, needlessly encouraging cheers from a crowd already wildly enthusiastic.

Pitcher Mo'ne Davis, 13, who became the first girl to pitch a shutout in the World Series, initially seemed overwhelmed, staring ahead straight-faced as fans chanted "Mo'ne! Mo'ne!" Then her megawatt smile - now as well known nationally as her trademark braids - emerged as she and her teammates soaked up their hard-earned glory.

"Thank you, everyone, for supporting the kids," Taney manager Alex Rice said, briefly tearing up at the microphone. "We felt every bit of the love you sent, wherever we were."

The Dragons emerged as the Mid-Atlantic regional champions in Bristol, Conn., in early August, earning the right to join seven American teams and eight teams from around the globe in South Williamsport. They staged a thrilling come-from-behind victory over a Texas team to advance to the U.S. semifinals.

The run captured the attention of the city, which held viewing parties and mass-produced Taney merchandise. Professional athletes and celebrities joined the applause. The team's Wednesday night game broke Little League television rating records and drew more than 34,000 people to Howard J. Lamade Stadium.

"They didn't win, but they did win," said Ronald Armour, 71. "They've put us on the map."

"It's so uplifting what they did for this city," echoed Jerry Hall of Chestnut Hill, holding up a framed, poster-size collage of news coverage about the team's inspiring journey.

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard visited the team during the World Series and played ping pong with some of the players. Davis became the first Little League player featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

The team lost to Chicago's Jackie Robinson West on Thursday, one game shy of the national championship game. The players decided to stay on to watch Chicago beat the previously undefeated Las Vegas Mountain Ridge team, 7-5, in the U.S. championship game. (Chicago lost to South Korea in Sunday's championship game, 8-4.)

The Dragons, who come from neighborhoods all over Philadelphia, are slotted for Today's first interview, at 7:30 a.m. Monday, spokeswoman Megan Kopf said.

Meanwhile, the timing, route, and other details of Wednesday's parade in Philadelphia are still being worked out, Nutter said.

The procession won't conflict with the Phillies' planned tribute that evening at Citizens Bank Park. The Dragons and their families will take to the field at 6:30, before the game. Fans can take advantage of a special ticket offer - with the team receiving part of the proceeds - by going to phillies.com/Taney. Attendees also will get a Taney Dragons T-shirt.

After such a heady, exhilarating summer, how will the parents get their 12- and 13-year-olds back to earth, not to mention back to school?

"Good question," said a laughing Roger Shanahan, whose son is going into seventh grade at St. Francis de Sales School in West Philadelphia. "We'll see."


mmccullough@phillynews.com

215-854-2720

@repopter

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