And the award goes to… Mo’ne Davis
A couple of days into the 2014 Little League World Series, Taney Dragons star pitcher Mo’ne Davis had developed a trick for fans wanting a photo or autograph. She’d use this if she was tired of smiling or signing. The hood of her sweatshirt pulled over her long black braids, the 13-year-old right-hander would tell whoever came asking: “I’m Mo’ne’s sister.”
Pretty good tactic. Because nobody in sleepy South Williamsport, Pa., was a bigger star in August than Davis. She was not only a member of the local team out of Philadelphia, but easily identifiable as one of just two girls in the tournament (the 17th and 18th in the LLWS’s 68-year history), the owner of a 70-mph fastball, and the first female pitcher to earn a win and pitch a shutout. She’s also the first player in Little League history to land on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She went from anonymous tween to in-demand celebrity overnight.
But—unlike so many full-grown pro athletes—Davis kept her head. Since she captured the world’s attention in South Williamsport, Davis has been selective and savvy with her media endeavours: She starred in a car commercial directed by Spike Lee. She threw out the first pitch—a strike, obviously—at a World Series game. And next year you can read her memoir, Mo’ne Davis: Remember My Name. The book even comes with a poster.
During the Little League World Series, Davis said she didn’t like all the attention, because it took away from her teammates. Getting an interview with her beyond post-game press conferences was difficult; impossible for most. It helped that media and fans—parents included—weren’t allowed entry into a fenced-off players-only area called The Grove on the Little League World Series grounds.
But outside The Grove, she protected herself. Asked how she managed all the attention and hype and media requests, the ace with the intense stare and seemingly unshakable poise told ESPN: “I can always say no. That’s my secret weapon with the media.”
While the pros can’t help but tweet themselves into trouble with disturbing regularity, it falls to a 14-year-old to be the model of restraint, acuity and wisdom.