What a coach first noticed about Mo'ne Davis

Mo'ne Davis received her latest accolade on Monday morning – Sports Illustrated's "Sports Kid of the Year." But baseball isn't Mo'ne's first love. 

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
Little League pitcher Mo'ne Davis throws out the ceremonial first pitch prior to a baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Nationals, in Los Angeles. Publisher Harper Collins told The Associated Press on Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, that "Mo'ne Davis: Remember My Name" will be released next March by HarperCollins Children's Books. Davis, an honor roll student from Philadelphia, became a sensation last summer after leading the Taney Dragons to a 4-0 victory over Nashville, when she was just 13.

The first headline, leading off a 2011 Philadelphia Tribune article, didn’t even note her name. “South Philly girl, 10, excels in several sports.”

Three years later, Mo’ne Davis’s latest accolade was first tweeted by first lady Michelle Obama. Mo’ne, now a 13-year-old pitcher – with a fastball that crosses the plate at 70 miles an hour, was named Sports Illustrated Kids’ “Sports Kid of the Year” on Monday morning.

The designation is just the most recent for Mo'ne. Earlier this year, she became the first Little Leaguer to land a Sports Illustrated cover while playing for the league. She was the fourth girl ever to play in the Little League World Series.

The media narrative surrounding Mo’ne began by examining the young girl’s talent and soon followed her team, the Taney Dragons, to the final competition. Today, hours after Ms. Obama’s announcement and the official release, it’s clear that Mo’ne herself won’t soon leave the national eye.

Mo’ne, of Philadelphia, didn’t start playing sports on the pitcher’s mound. Instead, the Tribune noted her broad athleticism, reporting that a coach saw her perfect football spiral when she tossed the ball to her older brother and cousins.

The coach was Steve Bandura, a program director at a South Philadelphia recreation center. He then invited her to his formerly all-male team’s basketball practice.

At practice, the boys practiced the three-man weave drill, in which players pass moving between three lines.

“Her eyes were just glued on the drill and when it came time for her turn, she went through it like she has been doing it a thousand times,” Mr. Bandura told the Tribune in that first 2011 story. “I just knew right then.”

Bandura recounts throwing and catching a baseball with Mo’ne for the first time in a 16 plus-minute Chevrolet spot, directed by Spike Lee and released in late October.

Mo’ne threw to Bandura, who tossed the ball back, he says in the film. A split-second worry entered his mind — most first-time glove wearers hold the mitt below their chin to catch a baseball, and the ball hits their face.

Not Mo’ne.

“She catches it and gets right in the back of the line, like she’d been wearing it for her entire life,” he says.

Both her family’s attention and the national spotlight saw Mo’ne's talent when the team made it to the Little League World Series — her mother, Lakeisha McLean, then understood her talent, Ms. McLean says in the short film by Mr. Lee.

When the Taney Dragons made it to the Little League World Series in early August, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other outlets lauded the team’s diversity.

“Taney mirrors much of the city. African American, white, four of mixed race, including a son of a Vietnamese immigrant, tall (6-foot-1), not so tall (a breath over five feet), from all over, top students at eight different schools, public, charter, parochial, and private, most on generous scholarships. Plus the singular Mo'ne.”  

Though the team would lose its final game to Jackie Robinson West, from Illinois, “the singular Mo’ne” has stayed in the spotlight — and now, many note her importance to female athletes and her contributions to gender equality.

"Boys diss softball players just because they don't think we're as good. I think most girls would be afraid of playing baseball and not willing to take the chance,” a Pennsylvania 16-year-old told ABC News in a mid-August article

One 11-year-old told ABC that Mo’ne “redefines ‘she throws like a girl’” — the name of the Lee film and Chevy commercial.

The first lady, in an Aug. 18 tweet, agreed.

Mo’ne will release her memoir, “Mo’ne Davis: Remember My Name,” through HarperCollins in mid-March.

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