Monday, August 18, 2014

Davis vs. Jones could be the sporting matchup of the year for Chicago fans

It has become the matchup I’m hoping becomes reality in coming days – pitcher Mo’Ne Davis going up against slugger Pierce Jones.

He of the three home runs and a triple who led the Jackie Robinson West team from the Roseland neighborhood to a victory to kick off the Little League World Series. She of the Philadelphia-area team that also is playing in Williamsport, Pa., who pitched a complete-game shutout and only gave up a couple of hits.

BIG SLUGGER AGAINST top pitcher – a key matchup that will occur if the Little League tourney plays out in such a fashion that the Chicago and Philadelphia ball clubs wind up facing off against each other.

Much has been made of the fact that Davis is a 12-year-old girl. Although all it really proves is that girls can be athletic, and most likely many of the boys she is facing have yet to go through that teenage growth spurt that turns them into adults and will erase whatever physical advantage she now possesses.

Although as one who enjoys watching baseball and often hears of the decline in the number of African-American ballplayers in the professional ranks (largely because of the upshot in recent years of ballplayers from Latin American and Asian nations coming to the United States to play ball), I would find this story to be a bit encouraging.

For Davis is black. As is Jones, and his entire Chicago-area ball club. That’s what happens when a Little League program representing an African-American portion of Chicago winds up getting good and winning the qualifying tournaments to represent the Great Lakes states in the Little League World Series – which has eight U.S. ball clubs and eight international teams.

YES, I’M FOLLOWING the activity of the team from Nuevo Leon, a northernmost Mexican state along the U.S./Mexico border – which kicked off its play by beating Canada 4-3, then losing Sunday 9-5 against a team from Japan.

But the big games that caught attention early on were that 12-2 victory by the Sout’ Side club against a team from Lynnwood, Wash. (I'm going out of my way to erase Sunday's 13-2 defeat from my memory); along with Davis’ shutout against a team from South Nashville, Tenn.

It was unique to see black ballplayers being such a dominant presence on the ball field. Not that I mean that in any bad way.

The degree to which some people with racial hang-ups were probably getting annoyed at the sight (or thought) of such activity was pleasing to me.

IT WAS ENCOURAGING to see some of the nonsense-talk that some people spew get rejected while watching these particular kids excel at something that some people would want to think they’re not supposed to have any interest in.

Plus, there’s the fact that they were kids – not quite at the stage in life yet where such an experience would lead them jaded.

I don’t know if any of these kids is destined for professional athletics in any form. It may well be that these few days in Pennsylvania will be a highlight moment that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

I’m also not convinced this is some seminal moment that will help shift black people back to an interest in baseball away from certain other sports. It would take several consecutive years of this – along with a certain shift in the baseball mentality itself – for that to happen.

BUT WATCHING THESE kids does create some intriguing moments on the ball field.

Particularly the thought of a Jones/Davis matchup.

Will Jones and his Jackie Robinson West teammates be the ones who can handle Davis and smack her pitches around the ballpark as easily as they did the kids from Lynnwood, Wash., last week?

Or will Mo’Ne be the one who schools Jones and company – giving them a lesson in humility that our city’s professional ball clubs give Chicago fans every time they lose another game on the field?


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