Taney team's ride was good for baseball

Mo'ne Davis (left) and coach Leland Lott (right) do their best to console teammate Jack Rice (center) as he continued to be upset following the Taney Dragons' 6-5 loss Thursday night to Chicago's Jackie Robinson West team in the Little League World Series. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)

The bitter taste of disappointment won’t last. The Taney Dragons were eliminated from the Little League World Series, but the exhilarating ride these young baseball players gave their hometown was too good to let their defeat evaporate the high spirits they created. Philadelphians are supposed to reserve such feelings for the Phillies or Eagles. But this talented team of adolescents stole this city’s heart.

At age 13, pitcher Mo'ne Davis has become the stuff of legends. The young lady’s earlier shutout in the first Little League World Series victory pitched by a girl was a work to behold. It served to bury for good the Little League’s position decades ago that girls weren’t capable of competing with boys. We expect to hear more from Mo’ne, and not necessarily in athletics. In interview after interview, her intellect and demeanor stood out as her most admirable attributes.

It also serves as some solace that the Dragons were eliminated from the World Series Thursday night by a cousin of sorts, another inner-city team with the talent and determination to exceed expectations. The all-African American Jackie Robinson West team from Chicago, like the diverse Taney squad, sent a message that minority kids haven’t given up on baseball. They just need the opportunity to play.

That isn’t always easy. Youth baseball is an expensive sport. You can’t just plop down a hard surface, put up a couple of hoops, and tell the kids to go play. Space for baseball fields can be hard to find, especially in inner cities. And fields are hard to maintain. Just ask the parents across America who serve as the groundskeepers. But the biggest expense is the equipment — balls, bats, and gloves that wear out. No wonder youth baseball has become more associated with affluent suburbs than cities.

There are few sandlot fields these days, and soccer is growing in popularity as a youth sport. But baseball can still capture the hearts and minds of America when it produces tenacious Little League teams like the Taney Dragons, who have done their part to ensure the future of the sport. Members of the Chicago Jackie Robinson West team that played in the 1983 Little League World Series returned to Williamsport this year. Decades from now, expect Mo'ne and today’s Dragons to do the same.

Harold Jackson