The Little League World Series is back for its 68th year and for a few weeks, dozens of teams of 12- and 13-year-olds descend on Williamsport, Pennsylvania in hopes of becoming the best youth baseball team in the world. Up to 45,000 fans pack the stadium for the championship game and a million more watch it live on television which adds up to a lot of pressure for the young athletes.
This year, all eyes are on Mo’Ne Davis, the 13-year-old girl who grabbed headlines last week in her first World Series match. The right handed pitcher threw a complete game shutout over South Nashville (Tenn.), striking out eight while allowing no walks and only two hits. That made her second complete shutout in a row, the first being the game that qualified her team for the series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Sunday night, Davis and the Taney Dragons team squeaked past Pearland, Texas (representing the Southwest region) in a late rally to win their game 7-6 and keep the dream alive. Not to take anything away from the boys on the team, Davis is definitely the best sports story of the summer.
The first girl to appear for a US team in South Williamsport since 2004, Davis receives rousing cheers during pregame introductions, every time she steps to the plate and after she strikes out a batter. Mixing a fastball that topped out around 70 mph with an effective slider, Davis has captured the attention of pros, fans and the media.
For all the doubters who joke about “throwing like a girl” Davis proves that baseball is not exclusively a boys’ sport. It may have started that way but baseball has come a long way.
The first Little League baseball game was played on June 6, 1939 but it wasn’t until 1974 that girls were first allowed by rule to play Little League Baseball (although the first girl to actually play Little League did so in 1950 in Corning, N.Y. – Kathryn “Tubby” Johnson). Surely the organization was pressured to open their doors to the opposite sex but nearly 40 years later, Little League provides a terrific option for girls who prefer baseball over softball.
To date, 18 girls have played in the Little League Baseball World Series and if Davis is any indication, many more will play in the future. Whatever path Davis’ life takes (she also plays basketball), the poise she has maintained with so much attention surrounding her will serve her well.