Mo'ne Davis, Emma March Find Friendship In Secret Hiding Place
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Slumped in the dugout after a late-afternoon practice on Saturday, the squeals and demands from adoring fans drown out Mo'ne Davis' voice but perfectly illustrate her thoughts.
It has been quite the day for the 13-year-old Little League sensation from Philadelphia, with first lady Michelle Obama tweeting congratulations, the national media making her an instant household name, and one newspaper illustration even depicting her standing atop Philadelphia's City Hall in place of the iconic statue of William Penn.
You get the feeling even Billy Penn, as the locals call him, would approve.
The kid has become a bona fide phenomenon since her two-hit, eight-strikeout performance in Philadelphia's 4-0 opening-game win. But to Emma March, a 12-year-old pitcher and infielder for the Canadian team, Davis is a new friend, her roomie and someone -- let's face it, the only one -- who can understand what it's like to be a girl in this all-boys world.
Segregated from their male teammates, the 17th and 18th girls in the 68-year history of the Little League World Series have shared a house on the outskirts of The Grove, the Olympic Village-esque player community overlooking the Little League complex.
And it is there where the two unite after long days of games and practices and autograph-signing, like a slumber party that won't quit, sharing their respective stories, bonding and giving Davis some much-needed relief from the frenzy.
"We talk about how crazy the people are on our teams and just the whole ride, the journey of how we got here," said Davis, whose Philadelphia team plays Pearland, Texas, on Sunday in its second game at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
"It's actually very fun," March said. "We talk about our different experiences during the day and she's really easy to talk to. We talk about how it's like playing with boys and how they treat her and how our players treat me. So it's very, very cool."
Rooming with Mo'ne has been good for Emma, said Evan March, her twin brother and Canada's catcher.
"Before I heard about Mo'ne, I was kind of worried that Emma would just be alone in the dorm and stuck there," he said, "and then the boys wouldn't treat her nicely and she'd be an outcast."
The two have commiserated over their respective challenges.
"Girls didn't believe me and they'd purposely say things mean about me because they thought I was lying about being on an all-boys team," Emma March said. "And because I kind of talk to boys easily, they're jealous of me, so Evan defends me. And you know how girls gossip behind your back? Some of the girls in my class did that."
Evan says it's not easy even now.
I hope other girls will continue to play baseball because I know when I started, I was timid and I was shy, but I want other girls to know that you can play baseball because girls can do anything boys can do if you just work hard and practice.Emma March
"I think it's becoming more and more frequent because the girls are getting to that teenage age where they're whispering behind peoples' backs," he said.
"Sometimes when I hear girls talking smack about my sister, I go into this mode where all I is want to do is protect her."
March said it has drawn her closer to male teammates and friends.
"Boys will tell you exactly what's on their mind," she said. "They don't gossip behind your back and say mean things about you. It's great. Boys are much better friends than girls sometimes. Mo'ne, she's great, though."
That does not mean, however, that both girls can't laugh about certain habits of 12- and 13-year-old boys.
"They know that I can take it, so when they say something [inappropriate], they'll go, 'Just kidding. You know it's a joke, right?'" March said. "But they're boys, and whenever I go in their dorm, I have to hold my nose because it stinks."
Davis displays similar toughness.
"They know I can take it," she says of her teammates. "I mean, we're all human beings; we all fart."
The jokes here have been a welcome respite for Davis, who still isn't sure how in a matter of days she can't walk 10 feet without being engulfed not just by children but sometimes overly aggressive adults bearing camera phones.
"I thought it was going to be fun, but it actually isn't that fun," she admitted. "I just want to watch games, but people don't understand that, they just think of themselves and their kids and they don't put themselves in other peoples' shoes.
"No matter where I go, there's always a mob of people. I just say no most of the time except to the little, little kids. I'll sign their things, but everyone else ... it's kind of weird."
She has discussed this with March, who again has experienced similar things quite differently.
"I never expected to be signing autographs or people screaming for me or ever being on TV," she said. "I've never, ever expected to experience what I'm experiencing right now, and it's very, very cool.
"Mo'ne is really funny. She talks about how, in the crowd, sometimes it's hard because people come up to you and want autographs and they do it to her 10 times more than me, obviously, because we're in her hometown. And so what she says she does is pull her hood over her head and when people come up to her and ask her, 'Are you Mo'ne?' she says 'Nope, Mo'ne is my sister.' It's actually very funny."
Not so funny, said Davis, is how it has affected her team at times.
"Some people on the team are a little jealous because I get a lot of interviews," she said, "but then when it's their time to get an interview they say no. So sometimes I don't [understand] them and just say it's not my problem and walk away."
While Davis said the crowds have kept her away from March's games, her roommate said she enjoyed watching part of Davis' gem Friday night against the Southeast region club from Nashville, Tennessee.
"I think she's a very, very good pitcher, one of the best I've ever seen and I'm glad she was the first girl to pitch," said March, a pitcher herself, who threw two no-hitters in Canada's national tournament but started at first base in her team's two losses in Williamsport. She pitched in relief and gave up a grand slam in Saturday's 10-0 loss to Venezuela.
Both Davis and March share a disdain for softball and know only that they want to continue competing in sports on the highest level they can.
"I know Mo'ne wants to be in the WNBA," March said. "I think I want to continue on in baseball. I hate softball. I would never want to play that. The ball is like 10 times bigger so it's easier to see and easier to hit because it's a big target. And I don't know but I've heard that it's slower and that baseballs are thrown faster. So baseball is a more complex sport."
"This isn't my favorite sport," Davis said of baseball. "It's just that I don't really go anywhere for basketball because I don't play AAU and there's no time in the summer for me to play basketball. But I like basketball more than this."
One thing they do have in common is the adoring looks they get from little girls holding up signs for their new role models.
"I take pride in it very much," March said. "I hope other girls will continue to play baseball because I know when I started, I was timid and I was shy, but I want other girls to know that you can play baseball because girls can do anything boys can do if you just work hard and practice.
"You have to love the sport, of course, and have fun. It's a great sport."
Davis agrees on the message she hopes to impart.
"Follow your dream," she said. "Yeah, follow your dream and don't let anyone else tell you that you can't do something."