PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — Although Philadelphia’s Taney Dragons didn’t walk away with the Little League World Series title, they captured the country’s attention by making it to the quarterfinals and have been honored as heroes in their home city.
At some point soon, the media blitz and celebrity status will come to an end.
But for now, the team has been managing interview and autograph requests, appearances on NBC’s “Today” show and waving to onlookers in a six-mile parade in Philadelphia.
One celebration that arguably overshadowed the others was Aug. 27, when the Phillies’ baseball team honored the Little League team with a pregame ceremony at Citizens Bank Park.
Before the Phillies-Nationals game, each Taney player and coach walked together on a makeshift red carpet from center field to the pitcher’s mound. They shook hands with area dignitaries, and every Phillies player and coach and were individually introduced to the crowd.
The Little League team members took a victory lap around the stadium before joining in unison to throw out the game’s traditional first pitch. Players and coaches were each presented with a game ball and an official Phillies jersey with their names and numbers on the back.
After the team’s big win against Texas Aug. 17 in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Taney lost the next two games of the double-elimination tourney, bringing the season that had begun in April to an end.
Tai Shanahan, an outfielder for the Dragons, says he is ready to resume normal life.
Shanahan, a seventh grader from St. Francis de Sales School, said: “On one hand I think I will miss it, but then I think I’ll be really fine with it.”
He said he was disappointed the team didn’t get to the championship, “because we came so close.”
“But something like this hardly ever happens for people, especially our age. We have a lot to be thankful for,” he told CatholicPhilly.com, the online news site of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Tai’s brother, Liam, who played for Taney’s 15-year-old team, said he wished he “could have played in something so amazing” and admitted living vicariously through his brother’s experience. The brothers have been longtime altar servers at St. Francis de Sales Parish.
Liam said he didn’t imagine the team would have advanced to the third round. For that matter, given the competition, he was surprised that Taney had even reached the prestigious tournament, which was eventually won by the South Korean team.
As the Taney Dragons continued to advance, Liam and his father, Pat, a 1980 graduate of St. John Neumann High School and a 25-year teacher at Roman Catholic High School, helped the Taney coaches by hitting batting practice.
“None of the players or their families will ever forget this, obviously,” Liam said. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I think they did a really great job of handling the pressure.”
When Tai and his teammates watched the highlights of their victory match on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” he had a difficult time believing they were on television.
“Never thought that would ever happen,” he said, “and I doubt it will ever happen again.”
The team, the first from Philadelphia to reach the Little League World Series, also included standout pitcher Mo’ne Davis, the first American female player in 10 years to compete in the World Series.
Taney blitzed through districts, sectionals, states and then regionals with few serious scares. Once the team got to the Little League World Series, it enjoyed, in many ways, a no-lose situation.
And as the wins mounted, the entire Philadelphia region took notice.
Tai’s father Pat pointed out that one thing the team experienced will always stick with them.
“It’s not just the memories, but it is the friendships that have developed,” he said. “These are moments that will last a lifetime.”
— By John Knebels, Catholic News Service.