Taney Dragons feel their city's jubilant embrace

Taney Little League World Series team members Zion Spearman (left) and Kai Cummings meet fans during a pre-game ceremony at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday, August 27, 2014. ( YONG KIM / Staff Photographer )
Taney Little League World Series team members Zion Spearman (left) and Kai Cummings meet fans during a pre-game ceremony at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday, August 27, 2014. ( YONG KIM / Staff Photographer )
Posted: August 29, 2014

They felt the love.

For 4 1/2 jubilant, noisy, hot, and at times slightly weird hours, the 12 members of the Taney Dragons Little League team, and their parents, siblings, friends, coaches, and variations thereof, took a bow to a citywide standing ovation.

Split between two glittery floats - one aquatic-themed, the other Statue of Liberty-esque - the local heroes waved and grinned and waved some more to the crowds gathered Wednesday afternoon along South Broad Street from City Hall to Franklin D. Roosevelt Park.

"This is unbelievable," said Ann Marie Reardon, mother of Taney outfielder Eli Simon. Looking through teary eyes at the ocean of fans waving signs, the pediatric nurse-practitioner said she was profoundly touched by the masses of strangers proclaiming "We believe in Dragons," and shouting, "Go Taney!" and "Thank you!"

Another of the Taney mothers made her own sign for the crowd, "Thank you for your support."

The city-sponsored parade for the Little League World Series darlings started at 2, drawing an astonishing array of people.

"Did someone give everyone half a day off?" wondered Trazanna Spearman, whose son Zion was one of the team's ace hitters.

Give may not have been exactly the right verb, but the time was taken nonetheless.

Businessmen in suits and ties and women in conservative dresses spilled out of banks and offices and law firms. Health care workers in scrubs left their posts in hospitals and clinics and dental offices.

Workers applauded and whooped outside funeral homes, tanning salons, and pizza parlors. Under the sign for the Sporting Club, men and women stood on tiptoe with their arms overhead, aiming cellphones at the children in blue uniforms.

Mothers with babies in strollers, fathers with toddlers on shoulders, and neighbors trying to calm their bewildered dogs all claimed territory along the route.

On the northbound side of the street, a Parking Authority van filled with ticket writers slowed down to honk. Not far behind, a driver hung out of the window to snap pictures at the floats - with her foot still on the gas.

Mo'ne Davis, last week's Sports Illustrated cover girl, maintained her trademark composure, her long braids gone - her mother removed the extensions after the World Series.

Over and over, Davis politely declined to sign autographs.

Music accompanied the honorees for miles. Loudspeakers poured out DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince's "Summertime" and heavy doses of the Rocky theme. At the Kimmel Center, the Philly Pops played "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." And further south, so did a bare-chested trumpet player, perched on the window ledge of his rowhouse apartment.

If ever the slogan "the City That Loves You Back" rang true, it was Wednesday - a day that Mayor Nutter formally dedicated to the little baseball team that could.

"We've had a tough summer," he said, noting that nearly a baseball team's worth of children have been killed or died under tragic circumstances in the city during the last few months.

Like many of the adults on the floats, Nutter was visibly moved by the scene passing before him. How uplifting it was, he said, to see so many people from such different backgrounds, neighborhoods, and economic circumstances find common joy in the achievements of these children.

"What this team has done is really put a spotlight on what can happen when kids have support," he said. "They deserve to be celebrated."


mdribben@phillynews.com

215-854-2590 @dribbenonphilly

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