SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Mo’ne Davis arrived for infield practice Tuesday with yet another accomplishment, having appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated before entering eighth grade.
A young girl approached for an autograph, but a team official said politely, “Not right now.”
Davis apologized to the girl, saying, “Sorry.”
Later, after batting practice, Davis graciously signed T-shirts, balls, even drinking cups for a gaggle of children. Kayla Nothstein, 10, who had been rebuffed earlier, smiled and said, “I’m happy.”
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Two months after her 13th birthday, Davis has become perhaps the most captivating athlete in the United States. Like a Brazilian soccer player, she needs only one name to be recognized. She is the first female pitcher to have thrown a shutout in the history of the Little League World Series.
Davis will pitch again Wednesday for the Taney Dragons of Philadelphia against a power-hitting team from Las Vegas. Attention from the public and the news media has been enormous and ceaseless. Davis is driving the ratings for ABC and ESPN during the series and, as of Tuesday, had been featured atop the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer for five consecutive days. Her following on Twitter and Instagram has ballooned.
Davis’ coaches have begun to try to ease pressure and expectation, striking a balance between making her available to tell her engaging story and protecting her so that she can enjoy herself while trying to help her team win a championship.
“She’s the most talked-about baseball player on earth right now,” said Mark Hyman, an author and an assistant professor of sports management at George Washington University who has written three books about youth sports. “That’s a lot for a 13-year-old kid.”
Former Negro League star, 78-year-old Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, called Davis “the best thing since food.”
She seemed more surprised that basketball stars like Kevin Durant and Magic Johnson had mentioned her on Twitter and that Geno Auriemma, coach of the Connecticut women’s basketball team, had given her a phone call.
Davis, who is 5 feet 4 and weighs 111 pounds, has repeatedly said her dream is to play basketball at UConn. If she ever appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated again, she said, “Hopefully, it’ll be me in a UConn jersey.”
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