The whole country is talking about 13-year-old pitcher Mo’ne Davis, who recently gave some of the best male Little League baseball players in the world a run for their money. Hailing from South Philadelphia, Mo’ne has been a star athlete at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy for several years. Though she prefers basketball, Mo’ne thought that playing baseball over the summer would be a great way to spend time with her friends. She probably had no idea it would lead to tweets from Michelle Obama, TV invites from Ellen DeGeneres and Jimmy Fallon, and her face on the cover of Sports Illustrated. But talent like hers is rare, regardless of gender. A 70-mph fastball is incredible for anyone in middle school, which is comparable to a 90-mph fastball at the Major League level. More noteworthy, however, is that Mo’ne is the first girl to pitch a winning game and a shutout in Little League World Series history. At only 5’4”, 111 lbs, Mo’ne is tiny in stature, but unbelievably powerful. Her pitching mechanics are precise and make her a lethal force on the mound.
Fame isn’t something Mo’ne necessarily desired, wanting simply to go on being a normal kid, but she’s been a good sport and respects her position as a role model. Although she is the 18th girl to play in the Little League Baseball World Series, her outstanding performance has renewed confidence in female athletes around the globe. Mo’ne’s arm has turned the derisive saying, “You throw like a girl,” into a positive and reignited discussions about women’s place in male-dominated professional sports. Already people are predicting a possible MLB career, sparking conversation about her post-Little-League fate. However, in a recent ESPN article, Melissa Isaacson explains the heavy push towards softball after Little League. In fact, there is currently only one female playing college baseball in the entire United States. Mo’ne Davis has become so popular because she represents an opportunity to allow females more freedom to play baseball and to open up the confines of a historically men’s sport.
As Justine Siegal, founder of Baseball For All, says, “When you tell girls, ‘You can’t play baseball,’ what else can’t they do? And conversely, when you tell boys that girls can’t play baseball, what else do they think girls can’t do?”
I myself went to the Little League World Series with my southeastern Pennsylvania softball team in 2002, and while it was certainly exciting, it couldn’t be ignored that the Little League Baseball World Series received double, if not triple, the media coverage. Even this year, because so much attention was focused on the South Philadelphia team in the Baseball World Series, nearly no one in the area noticed that a local New Jersey softball team right across the Delaware river won the Little League Softball World Series. I mean, they actually won the entire series, and will a parade be thrown for them? Doubtful. It’s no small feat either. That summer of 2002 was entirely consumed by softball, from winning your local county, to your state, to your entire region, then flying to Portland, Oregon, staying with a host family you’ve never met before for a week or more, trying not to let the pressure or the constant travel or the increasingly insane parents standing behind the dugout get to you whilst battling the best softball players in the entire world, many of whom live in year-round warm climates, giving them a bit of an advantage when it comes to practice. It’s exhausting and exhilarating, but it’s also frustrating to work just as hard as the boys do and receive a noticeably weaker enthusiasm by ESPN who broadcasts the games and the newspapers covering your story from town to town. Not that media matters to any 12-year-old, but it is these discrepancies that reinforce gender stereotypes rather than fix them. If women are still being underrepresented, then it has an impact, whether consciously or not.
From the time you’re old enough to pick up a bat, the majority of girls are pushed down the softball route as opposed to baseball, and for what reason? National Pro Fastpitch is nothing compared to Major League Baseball, consisting of only four teams, and when I was growing up, my school’s softball team was constantly underfunded while the baseball team got everything they wanted. Mo’Ne Davis has therefore become a beacon of hope for people who have experienced gender inequality in sports. When it comes to any politics, there is bound to be corruption, but sports politics definitely needs some shaping up. Softball and baseball must get on more of an equal playing field – softball needs to be taken more seriously and offer a secure future beyond college and the off-chance of playing on the U.S. Olympic team while baseball needs to be more accepting of girls who want to play because, the fact is, they’re not the same sport. Mo’ne Davis has proven that females are just as qualified as males to play baseball at a highly competitive level; now it’s up to the powers that be to make it a reality for women beyond Little League.
It shouldn’t be forgotten though that Mo’ne Davis is just a kid and wants to remain so, not a poster child for feminism. Although she is undeniably bad-ass when she walks onto the diamond to Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls),” America should see her as a leading example of a well-raised child – strong, smart, funny, and friendly. Her story should be used to inspire change in the professional and collegiate sports systems, but expectations should not be imposed on Mo’ne Davis. After all, she’s only 13 and has a world of opportunity ahead of her.
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