Lutz Blog

Little League World Series is must-see TV

Philadelphia’s Mo’Ne Davis is changing sports right before our eyes.
Philadelphia’s Mo’Ne Davis is changing sports right before our eyes.

The old, jaded me was a little bit put off by the Little League World Series. There was too much television coverage of the event, I believed. I questioned the quality of play and what I deemed to be the canned enthusiasm of the broadcast crew.

Let’s just say that based on what’s going on with this year’s LLWS, my views are changing.

The Mo’ne Davis story is one of the best of the year in sports and the success of the Jackie Robinson West squad out of Chicago, a team made up of all black kids, is close behind.

Davis and JRW-Chicago have made the Little League World Series a must-see event, even though the Jackie Robinson team was beaten Sunday, 13-2, by Las Vegas and is just one loss from being eliminated.

Davis’ team out of Philadelphia, though, remains undefeated. And she’s a major reason.

On Friday, the 13-year-old Davis, armed with a 70 mph fastball, became the first girl in the 67-year history of the LLWS to pitch a shutout. Amazing.

And on Sunday, playing third base, she drove in the game’s first run with a bloop single as the Philly team beat Texas, 7-6, as more than 32,000 people crowded into Howard J. Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport, Pa.

Incredible. And inspirational.

Davis, who is black, and the kids from the Jackie Robinson West team are especially of interest because of what they represent - a discovery of the game by young black kids. Only about eight percent of the players on the 30 MLB rosters are black, a number that has been decreasing year after year.

Baseball has become too much of a country club sport with spots reserved for those who can afford to sign up their kids in suburban leagues and enroll them in specialized training. Meanwhile, young black kids have turned to other, less-expensive sports like basketball and football.

League 42 was formed in Wichita to provide a cheaper alternative to families with children who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to play baseball. It’s a non-profit organization that depends on charitable contributions of individuals, business and corporations. League 42 just concluded its first year with around 230 players and hopes to attract 350 players in Year 2. It’s an organization for all kids, male and female, and its goal is to not only introduce baseball to these kids, but also to become part of their support unit.

And who’s to say that someone like Davis, or the all-black team out of Chicago, won’t come out of Wichita someday?

League 42 included nearly 20-25 girls in 2014, most of them playing in the younger age groups. Half of those girls played T-Ball in the 5-6 age group. And several were among the best players on their respective teams.

Davis, surely, has become an inspiration to those girls just as the Jackie Robinson West team out of Chicago should be an inspiration to any young black child who aspires to play sports. That’s why this particular Little League World Series has become so interesting to me. It shows that perhaps baseball isn’t dead in America’s inner cities.

So when you watch Davis pitch or play the infield, or you root for the Jackie Robinson West team, understand that you’re watching something bigger than sports.

Davis is doing something that’s never been done. Because of her performance, we’re asking ourselves what might be possible? She has not only impressed us with her talents, but fed our imaginations a three-course meal.

And the Jackie Robinson West kids from Chicago have done the same.

If you know me, you know how much I love baseball. It’s the greatest game ever invented, in my opinion. And it’s so heartwarming to see these kids playing and enjoying the game. It represents cultural and societal progress and those of us who believe in what baseball has to offer are overjoyed.