By Sean Landis
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – In baseball parlance, a “phenom” is a young ace pitcher who explodes on the scene.
That’s exactly what a 13-year-old Philadelphia girl named Mo’ne Davis has done in this year’s Little League World Series, where she is dominating. But in her case, the phenomenon is stretching well beyond the playing field.
All-Star Mike Trout of Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Angels has tweeted about her. So has National Basketball Association MVP Kevin Durant. Replicas of her team’s “Mid-Atlantic” jersey sold out at the World Series stadium in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Photos of Davis have adorned the front pages of newspapers in Philadelphia and New York.
The right-hander with the calm demeanor, the smooth windup and the 70 mile-per-hour fastball gets her next shot under the bright lights on Wednesday when her Philadelphia “Taney Dragons” team, which represents the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, faces a team from Las Vegas, Nevada.
It will be tough to top her first two performances.
Davis pitched a 4-0 complete-game victory in Taney’s opening game on Friday, becoming the first girl to ever to toss a shutout in World Series competition, an annual international tournament hosted by the Little League organization.
Philadelphia’s second game Sunday night – a dramatic 7-6 come-from-behind walk-off victory over Pearland, Texas – drew a 1.5 television rating, the largest recorded audience for non-championship Little League game on ESPN2. In the Philadelphia market, the game pulled a jaw-dropping 6.7 rating.
“The Taney Dragons have really taken the city by fire,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said at a City Hall pep rally complete with Philadelphia staples like soft pretzels, Tastykakes, a brand of snack cakes, and the Phillie Phanatic mascot dancing to the theme from “Rocky,” a movie franchise set in the city.
One fan held up a sign that read, “Mo’ne Throws Like a Girl!”
Joe Ritchie, who coached teams the past four years in the Taney Youth Baseball Association, credits the team’s popularity, in part, to its racial and economic diversity.
“Largely, the folks that make it to the World Series are wealthy suburban clubs,” he said.
“They’ve got the fields. They’ve got the indoor practice facilities. We did it differently,” he said. “We play on these city fields. Finding practice space is tough. The fields are generally not in great shape. Sometimes you’ll have to pick up glass.”
Though Mo’ne is one of just 18 girls to have ever competed in the history of the Little League World Series, being in the limelight has clearly not gone to her head.
When an ESPN commentator asked her how she is dealing with all of the interview requests, she said calmly: “I can always say, ‘No.'”
(Reporting by Sean Landis; Editing by Frank McGurty, Steve Ginsburg and Eric Beech)