On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS September 1, 2014 # 504 Up next…”Show Me the Mo’ne!”
After further review…As the month of August ended so did the 2014 Little League World Series played in South Williamsport, Pa. In the most widely viewed and publicized tournament to date, Asia-Pacific Region champs South Korea took on the American champion Jackie Robinson West T*E*A*M of Chicago and defeated them 8-4 in the final game. Stories abounded this year in So. Williamsport (Little League’s birthplace), but perhaps none were more compelling that the one that developed around Mo’ne Davis of the quarter-finalist American team from Philadelphia.
Mo’ne is a 13-year old girl who stands 5’4”, weighs 111 pounds, and pitches like Bob Gibson. She performed so well in the early stages of this tournament that Sports Illustrated featured her in its August 25 issue. It’s a singular honor for any athlete to be a featured athlete in SI, but quite a rare one for such a young female playing against a majority of boys. Despite her six strikeouts in 2.1 innings against the powerful (West Champions) Las Vegas Nevada team, Mo’ne’s Taney Dragons fell 8-1 and missed their shot at the championship. But oh, how they scored in the hype department!
The combination of Mo’ne talent and her photogenic demeanor turned her into a media pheromone. The online bidding for one of her autographed baseballs exceeded $510. One sports memorabilia company estimated Mo’ne could earn $25,000 for the bulk of signing 500-1000 baseballs. The internet once again has created an instant and breathless marketplace.
But it’s dubious one in this case. Mo’ne is only 13! Do we take a quiet, reserved kid like Mo’ne (whose principal described her as “lovely, well-liked”) and treat her like a professional free agent? And in the larger sense, are we doing kids a disservice when we track their competitive progress for entertainment purposes?
There is no denying the positive impact this year’s publicity will have on urban and minority participation in baseball in this country, but there is a cost paid for the constant media spotlight. We see it in arrogant tosses of the bat, in time-wasting adjustments of gloves between pitches, in flippant demands for “time” from the umpire. Most of these kids will never rise to the humbling level of minor league professional ball. What kind of “game” are they learning in the meantime?
Will you reinforce the idea of kids playing for the simple love of the game?
Jim’s new book “101 Best of TunneySide of Sports” extols values sports can bring to society?