Mo'ne Davis Throws Like A Girl — At 70 MPH

Aug 16, 2014
Originally published on January 30, 2015 10:39 am

The Little League World Series kicked off this week in Williamsport, Pa., and one pitcher in particular has been drawing national attention. Mo'ne Davis, a 13-year-old playing for a Philadelphia team, is just one of two girls playing in this year's series — and she has already made history. On Friday night, Davis became the first female pitcher to throw a shutout in the Little League postseason.

As light faded over a stadium that seats 40,000 fans, Davis entered the bottom of the game's sixth and final inning with the opposing team, a squad from Tennessee, still held scoreless. The moment was all hers. She struck out the first batter, then the second. In the family cheering section behind third base, everyone was on their feet.

The third batter from Tennessee got up to a full count. One more ball, and she would have walked him. Instead, Davis blasted a pitch past him, winning the game with yet another strikeout. Her team mobbed her when she returned to the third-base line.

In the course of her shutout, Davis gave up just two hits and struck out eight batters. And the game was no fluke, either: Davis throws a 70 mph fastball, while most of the boys she faces pitch in the high 50s and low 60s. Even before the game, Davis had delivered suffocating performances for her team, which goes by the name Taney Dragons.

Right after the game, team members were whisked off to talk to ESPN, as the coach of the losing team complimented her play. "She mixed it up," said Chris Mercado, "and that's a good pitcher. And that's what you do."

Davis' step-dad, Mark Williams, seemed overcome with pride. "I can't even talk right now," Williams said. "I don't know what to say. She was tremendous, and her teammates were the best. They got together and threw this thing together."

Even Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett weighed in, suggesting Davis might make the big leagues someday. At the team's press conference, she responded with what's become her trademark cool.

"It's very crazy," Davis laughed. "I didn't even expect that. ... If I do stay in to baseball, hopefully I can pitch, be a professional pitcher."

She revealed her lucky charm to reporters: a little bit of money she keeps in her pocket when she pitches. "It's just that I do well when I've got money in my back pocket. And I know if I ever get hungry, I know I can get something to eat because I've got money."

The profile of the young star has risen quickly, both because of her talent and her novelty as a girl at the Little League World Series. The man handling public relations for the team says that late-night TV host Jimmy Fallon has requested an interview with her, as have a dozen others.

Davis, with long braids fanning out as she pitches, has captivated little girls in the stands. Her step-dad says she started playing at age 6 but got serious about pitching a couple of years ago.

"She says she was pitching one day, and someone hit a home run off of her. So she felt like she needed to work on it more. And from there, it got to this point. So she worked pretty hard on it."

While Davis is certainly the star, her diverse team, which is pulled together from neighborhoods across Philadelphia, has earned respect as constant underdogs. Keith Hendricks, whose son Jahli plays second base for the Dragons, says this team doesn't have the resources of top suburban clubs. They practiced this winter in an empty hangar near the airport.

But Hendricks says they have something else: "Their heart and determination. And how they don't quit."

On Sunday night, the Dragons will face a team from Pearland, Texas. This time, the pressure will be on Davis' teammate Jared Sprague-Lott, who's been named the starting pitcher. Understandably, he's a little bit nervous after Davis' shutout.

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Transcript

TESS VIGELAND, HOST:

Thanks for listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Tess Vigeland, here at NPR West. The Little League World Series began on Thursday in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Last night, a team from Philadelphia representing the mid-Atlantic region of the championships for the very first time faced off against a team from Nashville, Tennessee, that's been there before. On the mound for Philadelphia's Taney Dragons - 13-year-old Mo'ne Davis - one of just two girls playing in this year's Little League World Series. And girlfriend made history. WHYY's Emma Jacobs was at the game.

EMMA JACOBS, BYLINE: Mo'ne Davis stood on the mound as a light faded over a Little League stadium that seats 40,000 fans, mostly full for this game. And at the bottom of the sixth inning - that's all they play in Little League - the moment was all hers. She struck out the first batter, then the second. Davis throws a 70 mile-an-hour fastball in championships where most of the boys pitch in the high 50s and low 60s.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)

JACOBS: In the family cheering section behind third base, everyone was on their feet. The third player from Tennessee gets up to a full count. One more ball and she'll walk him, one more strike and the game is over. He swings at the pitch, and he misses. Davis had just thrown a shutout - the first girl ever to do so in the Little League postseason. She'd given up two hits and struck out eight batters. Her team mobbed her on the third base line. They're whisked off to talk to ESPN as the coach of the losing team, Chris Mercado, complemented her playing.

CHRIS MERCADO: She mixed it up. And that's a good pitcher. And that's what you do.

JACOBS: Davis' step-dad, Mark Williams, seemed overcome with pride.

MARK WILLIAMS: I can't even talk right now. I don't know what to say. She was tremendous, and her teammates were the best. They got together and threw this thing together.

JACOBS: Even the governor of Pennsylvania weighed in, suggesting Davis might make the big leagues someday. At the team's press conference, she responded with what's become her trademark cool.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

MO'NE DAVIS: (Laughter) It's very crazy. I didn't even expect that. So if I do stay into baseball, hopefully I can pitch - be a professional pitcher.

JACOBS: She revealed her lucky charm to reporters - a little bit of money she keeps in her pocket when she pitches.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

DAVIS: It's just that I do well when I have money in my back pocket. And if I ever get hungry, I know I can get something to eat because I got money.

JACOBS: This young star has risen pretty quickly, both for her talent and her novelty here as a girl. When I asked someone handling PR for the team for an interview earlier this week, he told me so had late-night host Jimmy Fallon and a dozen others. With her long braids fanning out around her when she pitches, she's captivated little girls in the stands. Her step-dad says she started playing at age six, but got serious about pitching a couple of years ago.

WILLIAMS: She says that she was pitching one day and somebody hit a home run off her. So she felt like she needed to work on it more. And from there it went - it got to this point. So she worked pretty hard on it.

JACOBS: Well, she's certainly the star. The diverse team, pulled together from neighborhoods across Philadelphia, has earned respect as the constant underdogs.

KEITH HENDRICKS: Among the parents, we've been saying tough and gritty those kids from the city.

JACOBS: Keith Hendricks, whose son Jahli plays second base, says this team doesn't have the resources of top suburban clubs. They practiced this winter in an empty hangar near the airport. But he says they have something else.

HENDRICKS: Their heart and determination and how they don't quit.

JACOBS: On Sunday night, they'll face a team from Pearland, Texas. This time, the pressure will be on Davis' teammate Jared Sprague-Lott. He's been named the starting pitcher and is understandably a little bit nervous after Davis' shutout game. For NPR News, I'm Emma Jacobs in Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.