She’s in the 8th-grade. She hits 70 mph on the gun and has a biting curve. She’s black. She’s beautiful and she’s a born Philly funkster. Her name is butter too. Mo’Ne Davis. It’s unmistakably black, which is cool to me and the fact that she’s dominating males in a male-dominated sport has already made her an all-time poster child for the “girls can do anything boys can do,” club.
Despite the influx of female participation at every level of world athletics—with the way our society still prehistorically views sports—the notion of a girl out performing a boy in a contact or “traditional” sport is constantly challenged by the “I got to see it to believe it,” club.
Well if you saw Davis on the mound, the only reason you’d be able to tell she was a girl without seeing her face is because the long, black, braided hair hanging out of the back of her baseball cap gives it away.
Davis has been showing “it” for some time now. Earlier this month, Philadelphia Magazine called Davis "the heart and soul of the team" and on Sunday she hurled her team into the Little League World Series, throwing a three-hitter for Taney Youth Baseball Association Little League of Philadelphia in an 8-0 shutdown victory over a squad from Delaware.
Mo'Ne struck out six in the six-inning, Mid-Atlantic Regional championship game. The 13-year-old has already shook up the youth baseball world by becoming just the 17th girl to play in the Little League World Series in its illustrious 68-year history, and starting Thursday you can tune in to catch Davis and the boys destroy the diamond in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
"She has incredible leadership, and you can't shake her; she's unflappable," Davis coach, Alex Rice, told ESPN. "Hit a home run off her and she'll just give a little smile and get back to work. she doesn't get rattled."
Delaware-Newark National Little League was no stranger to Davis’ deadly delivery. The shock of facing the same girl they might ask to the junior high prom was gone when Davis whiffed 10 of them in her previous victory over Delaware earlier in the same regional.
For Davis to continue competing against boys at this elite level is mindboggling and definitely a story worth some TSL press, and probably a motion picture film in the future. I’m sure film companies are already sending out feelers to Davis’ “representatives” about a possible biographical project.
Even if she bombed terribly in the LLWS, just pitching her Philly team to Williamsport is a feat worthy of legendary praise. If Taney advances deep into the tournament and she continues to scorch the world’s best baseball kids in her Philly skillet, it would be a gift from the gods for the media machine. Seeing her name trend on Twitter must be a surreal experience and expect more of the same if she’s able to continue her magic.
Watching Davis crush stereotypes reminds me of Jasmine Plummer of Harvey, Illinois, who got that football Jones as a young kid and eventually joined the Harvey Colts as part of the Pop Warner youth athletic organization. Coached by her uncle Fred Johnson, Plummer became a star QB and big-hitting linebacker with fast legs and a cannon for a wing. She led them to the Pop Warner Super Bowl when she was just 11 years old, becoming both the first female quarterback and the first black female athlete to do so.
Plummer’s feats are so captivating and unique that in 2008 her story was depicted in The Longshots, a film directed by Fred Durst and starring Ice Cube and a young Keke Palmer. After Plummer scored two touchdowns in deafeating a team from Hawaii in the consolation game in Orlando, screenwriter Nick Santoro ("Prison Break" writer/producer) quickly snatched up the film rights, wrote the script and took the project to Ice Cube and his Cube Vision homie Matt Alvarez, who then brought MGM and Dimension on board.
Davis' rights may have been sold while we slept last night. Who knows? What we do know is that times are changing.
Plummer used the pigskin as a tool of social progression. She spat in the face of Neanderthal opinions and coaches who felt she wasn’t tough enough or big enough to play with the boys. She took the hits and executed the plays. She may be a an aberration, but she proved that limits and boundaries are only set by suckers who won’t accept a changing reality. As women continue to extend the boundaries of their athletic capabilities, you’ll see more Jasmine Plummer’s and Mo’Ne Davis’ shock the world and open the floodgates of athletic participation to more youngsters.
In 2008 an ESPN article reflecting on Plummer's accomplishments cited Pop Warner media relations director Josh Pruce, who said that the number of girls participating in the football program had more than doubled since Plummer's arrival from an estimated 5,000 to an estimated 12,000. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, that boost was reflected at the prep level too, where nearly 2,000 girls played football, compared with 658 in 2000 B.P. (Before Plummer).
Davis' performance and the media rush that's already in motion, could spark a similiar hike in girls participating in baseball. Purists have been debating ways to keep kids playing baseball into their teens. The solution may be in letting more girls in.
I welcome the media to exploit the heck out of Davis, just as I didn’t mind the media rush on Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglass – until people started getting on her hair.
A great story about a young African-American woman who could be a role model for so many lost African-American girls turned into a racially motivated meme-fest and ugliness ruled the day. I hope cultural ignorance doesn't taint Davis' story. It's one that could spark the creative ambitions of black girls all over the world in the same way The Williams Sisters inspired a new tennis culture.
Parents, be prepared to start looking into little leagues for your girls next year. The old go-to line of “girls don’t play baseball,” can’t be used any more. They won’t be looking to play softball either. The most ambitious girls will want to mix it up with the boys in hopes of duplicating Davis’ feats on the big stage.
We’re repping girl power at the LLWS. Black girl power at that. Go figure. Don’t underestimate the power of this moment. She’s in the 8 th-grade. She flosses a 70 mph fastball. She’s black. Her name is butter too. Mo’Ne Davis. She’s a city slicker with a wicked pitch game. She’s not from Middle America, but she’s in the middle of a gender revolution in baseball. She’s pitched herself into the history books by simply doing what she loves to do.
Being the only girl is not a big deal to Davis. She's just balling. In a recent TV interview, Davis broke down the secret to her success and with a straight face said: "If I'm pitching, they see my fastball and get kind of scared then I strike em' out."