Mo’ne Davis’ Youth Team Builds on LLWS legacy
In the summer of 2014 Mo'ne Davis became and household name and with it, so did Taney Youth Baseball, the team that rostered her and rode the succer of her power pitching into the semi-final round of the Little League World Series. Thanks to Davis and 2014 team, Philadelphia's most successful youth baseball program is more popular than ever. The baseball, softball and tee-ball instructional league for kids 3 to 15 saw tremendous news coverage during the 12U Taney Dragons’ dazzling success, and the result has been a significant rise in kids’ interest in playing baseball.
The Dragons not only won the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Little League championship, but they received widespread media coverage during their run at the Little League World Series that year. The team’s triumphant success made Philadelphia fans and Pennsylvanians proud, culminating with a parade in downtown Philly, civic awards and being honored at a Phillies game in Citizens Bank Park. All of this came after gaining a Little League charter only two years before.
Many of the players on the Taney roster are still competing. Davis is currently playing basketball for the AAU Philly Triple Threat, where she can showcase her roundball talents to prospective college coaches. Fellow Dragons Zion Spearman, Kai Cummings and Joseph Richardson have all been drawing interest from showcase baseball teams, while Jared Sprague-Lott, Carter Davis, Jack Rice, Joseph Richardson have been playing in Philadelphia's RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program, an initiative of Major League Baseball. The core of that 2014 Dragon team started in Taney’s tee-ball league at Philly’s Anderson Recreational Center.
Last season, the Taney 12U team made it as far as the District playoffs, and the 13U Dragons won Districts and Sectionals, but lost in the state Championship game. However, the main focus for Taney this year is offering not only a chance for kids to play, but also its motto: “fun, instruction, good sportsmanship and teamwork." Taney also has in a new 13-15 division, and they’re on the lookout for coaches.
Since its initial turnout of 180 kids, the number has grown to 1,000. According to Taney commissioner Lou Cammisa, “Since the Little League World Series, Taney has seen a steady increase; we had to cap our registration as we do not have the space, or to handle the amount of players that registered in each of our divisions.”
With its teams jam-packed with registered players, volunteers are a welcome addition.
“Volunteers that we need are rare―people who want to help maintain the fields with coaches, especially during rain times,” Cammisa said. “We buy the materials and plenty of the equipment, we just don't get the ‘man power’ we hope for. Because of this, we cannot expand the league for more kids, because we wouldn't be able to handle the situations that may arise as such. “
“Several programs have since formed from Taney,” Cammisa added. “The Philadelphia Shock and Philadelphia A's are more notable.”
In addition, Taney offers a boys and girls basketball program for ages 5 to 12 that has seen up to 450-plus kids joining each year.
So when springtime arrives in Philly, look for the Taney Dragons to showcase more talented, humble and fun-loving players that will reach for the top once more.
By Tom Warnwick