Taney Dragons: Rise to Stardom

Addison Hunsicker

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Williamsport, Pennsylvania is the dream destination for every kid playing Little League Baseball. For very few kids, the dream becomes a reality, and they find themselves playing on Volunteer or Howard J. Lamade Stadium, representing their region in the Little League World Series. The kids from Taney Youth Baseball Association in Philadelphia, representing the Mid-Atlantic Region, have taken the nation by storm thanks to star pitcher Mo’Ne Davis.

Watching the kids from Taney march along their journey to Williamsport has been truly remarkable. I was fortunate enough to see the Dragons play in the Pennsylvania Little League State Championship, before they became known at the national stage. When walking over to Palmer Park in Skippack, Pennsylvania, home of Lower Perkiomen Little League, and hearing about this team from the city, who had a girl that pitched pretty good, was very intruiging. Of course, at that time, no one gathered to watch the top Little League teams in Pennsylvania knew, or ever heard about the Taney Dragons.

Throughout the entire week, sitting next to Taney parents in the bleachers, watching Zion Spearman hit missiles over the fence, seeing Kai Cummings hit a line drive in the gap and reach second base in the blink of an eye, noticing Jared Sprague-Lott doing his thing at shortstop, and spectating the talents of Mo’Ne Davis, the only girl in the state championship, play every infield position, and not even thinking about these kids possibly playing on national television.

Taney was so good, they made it to the state championship game against Collier Township without two of their better players. After dropping the first game to Collier 7-2, three Taney parents drove all the way up to New Hampshire to fetch Scott Bandura and Jahli Hendricks, who had missed the games previously played in the state tournament because they were on a well-established camp scholarship. Bandura and Hendricks arrived back in Pennsylvania four hours before the final game, which Taney went onto to win 6-4 after trailing 4-0 thanks to home runs from Jared Sprague-Lott and Zion Spearman.

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(Taney during the Pennsylvania State Tournament – Michael S. Wirtz/Philly.com)

As the Taney Dragons won the Pennsylvania Little League State Championship and moved onto the Mid-Atlantic Regional in Bristol, Connecticut, they still remained unknown to the national eye, and then the Mid-Atlantic Regional Final happened.

Mo’Ne Davis and the Taney Dragons boomed into fame as they defeated Newark, Delaware 8-0 to advance to Williamsport. The sudden national attention was centered around star pitcher Mo’Ne Davis, who threw a complete game shutout in the Mid-Atlantic Regional final win, striking out six in her six innings of work. Once the complete game shutout was finished and Taney advanced to the Little League World Series, Mo’Ne Davis began getting all kinds of mentions on social media, from Magic Johnson and Lil’ Wayne to name the few. Taney would head to Williamsport as a fan favorite, representing the Mid-Atlantic Region.

The youngsters from Nashville, Tennessee were the first United States team to have the pleasure of facing Taney in the Little League World Series. Taney was already gaining national attention before the game had even started, but once Mo’Ne Davis threw another complete game shutout with her 70 mile per hour fastball, and the Dragons won 4-0 on Friday, Taney soared into stardom. Mo’Ne Davis’s well-deserved popularity kept rising with more mentions on social media, this time from the likes of Kevin Durant, Mike Trout, and Andrew McCutchen, and she has handled the national attention with perfection. With an interview on ESPN’s Mike & Mike, along with being the focus of the weekly Sunday Conversation on Sportscenter, Mo’Ne Davis was everywhere as she saw herself go from 2,000 to 24,000 Instagram followers, and reach 15,000 Twitter followers in a week’s span.

The magic of the Taney Dragons continued into their second Little League World Series game on Sunday night against the kids from Pearland, Texas. Taney trailed 6-5 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, and put together an unforgettable two-out rally. Zion Spearman hit a hard ground ball to the fence in left-center field for a triple, scoring Scott Bandura to the game at six all. The next batter Tai Shanahan hit a grounder to short, but Texas shortstop Matt Adams had a throwing error and Zion Spearman trotted home from third for the Taney win.

Taney has become beloved in the Philadelphia area this past week, especially with the Philadelphia Phillies once again buried in the standings, and people are even calling for a parade down Broad Street should the Dragons bring home the Little League World Series Championship. Yet one month ago during the Pennsylvania Little League Championship tournament, Mo’Ne Davis was known as “the girl on the city team that can pitch”, Kai Cummings was “the tall kid that runs really fast”, and the Taney Dragons were just another team playing for the chance to potentially head to Williamsport. But now, the Taney Dragons are national stars, and have gained the support and attention from people across the world.

Taney plays again on Wednesday night against the kids from Nevada. Oh, and Mo’Ne Davis will be the starting pitcher.

Image Source: Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo

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