Talk about growing up fast. The kids vying for a Little League World Series as part of the Mid-Atlantic champions were — not more than two months ago — playing on inner city fields in Philadelphia as part of the Taney Youth Baseball Organization.
Now look at them.
With a win Wednesday against the West (Nevada) the 12 and 13-year-olds will advance to the USA final Saturday, or the LLWS semifinal. A win there means they get the chance to face an international team for the title this coming Sunday.
"They are growing up kind of fast but they have been able to handle it extremely well," Taney coach Reggie Cummings told Metro. "It says a lot about all the parents and coaches and kids themselves, all that we've been able to do as a Taney family. They have been stepping up. It's a tremendous honor to be here and they are showing the younger kids back in Philly that you don't have to be from the suburbs or have five or six different fields to play on, if you love the game and work hard at the game you too can come from an urban environment and play in the Little League World Series."
On the docket next for the pride of Philadelphia is a Wednesday evening match against Nevada (7:30 p.m. on ESPN). This could be the toughest draw yet for the Mid-Atlantic, as the west is always a top contender to make the Little League final.
"The teams that come out of the West, whether its Southern California, Northern California or Nevada, those teams are very very tough and they are really good," Cummings said. "They focus and spend a lot of time on various pitches -- fast balls, breaking balls, inside and outside. I anticipate it will be a tough game. I know their starting lineup can hit from top to bottom."
Taney has done its homework however, and has scouted Nevada tirelessly to make sure the coaching staff can put the players in a position to keep winning.
"We do as much as we possibly can, like our competitors do, to learn the little things that give us the competitive edge," Cummings said. "Whether it's how the batter stands in the box, if there is a strong arm in the outfield, whether we can play small ball, we look at all of those things."
Sure, it's the biggest game any youth baseball team from Philadelphia has ever played. But don't bother telling the kids that. They have another baseball game to play, and it's the game they love.
"They love to play the game," the coach said. "They're not necessarily worried about, or overwhelmed by the fact that they're at the Little League World Series, they just wanna play. Anytime they can get out there and play as a team thats what they do. They do their best to avoid the distractions as they possibly can."