SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Mo’ne Davis knew she was going to be in Sports Illustrated at some point. She just didn’t know when or on what page.
So she was “surprised,” she said, to learn Tuesday afternoon that she had become the first little league player ever to grace its cover. Her issue hits stands Wednesday.
It was somewhat of a dream come true for the Dragons’ star -- even though she’s pitching in the photo SI used, and not shooting a basketball. By now, it’s well known that baseball is Davis’ No. 2 sport; she even comes to Taney’s practices wearing mostly basketball gear.
“Actually, it was [a dream],” she said. “A couple years ago, I was reading it with my brother. I wanted to be up there, but I didn’t know what sport. And now it’s baseball, so hopefully next it’ll be me in a UConn jersey.”
The SI cover, which depicts her throwing a ball wearing Taney’s maroon-and-blue Mid-Atlantic region uniform, is just the latest feature on the 13-year-old girl who has become the most talked about athlete of the summer. Scores of newspaper, website and TV interviews have preceded it.
Taney’s manager, Alex Rice, still can’t believe all the attention Davis has received since making history as the first girl to win a game on the mound in the Little League World Series.
“It gets more surreal as every hour passes,” he said. “That is just fantastic. I’m thrilled for her. I’m thrilled for her family, the city. The attention that the team’s getting and the city is getting is great.”
Davis has endured a veritable media blitz since the Series began last week. She’s been on the "Today Show". She’s been on the cover of the New York Times. She’s been featured on ESPN multiple times, including yet another appearance Tuesday morning with her Taney teammates.
She’s handled the spotlight with a surprising maturity, something she chalks up to the Dragons’ coaches and staff who have assisted her.
“I have a bunch of adults around me that help me out with it,” she said. “They kind of balance it out most of the time.”
And all along, Rice has reminded her that it’s OK to say no to interview requests if the pressure becomes too much. That's been key to her composure.
“It’s his favorite thing to say,” Davis said.
So far, though, she hasn’t let the attention get to her. Mostly, she said, she’s “enjoying it.” The perks have outweighed the annoyances: professional athletes have tweeted about her, for instance. She’s signing autographs daily by the dozen.
And then there was the phone call from Geno Auriemma.
The UConn women’s basketball coach called her Monday, after she mentioned him during an ESPN appearance last week. Davis wants nothing more than to suit up for the Huskies one day.
That phone call was the first time during this entire experience she was actually speechless.
“He told me that he was watching the games and that I should keep that up,” she said. “And that I needed to get a couple hits."
She responded with: “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Davis will be on the mound Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., when the Dragons take on the West region’s team from Las Vegas (see story). Her team practiced for about two hours Tuesday afternoon, and once again, she was met with a barrage of attention as soon as the players were permitted to mingle with fans.
Somehow, though, she hasn't changed at all. Coaching her is the same as it's been all along, Rice said.
“It’s really no different than it was three weeks ago, honestly,” he said. “We’re in a bubble. We’re trying to stay in the bubble.”