The Taney Youth Baseball Organization has catapulted into the national spotlight as they prepare for a big game Wednesday in Williamsport, Pa.
A win would give them a berth into the USA finals, or Little League World Series semifinals, just a stones throw from the championship game.
But as they prepare to lace up their cleats, the Mid-Atlantic champs know they are playing for more than just a Little League World Series. They are playing for every young athlete in Philadelphia hoping to get the opportunity to show their talents off just like the Taney kids get to do.
"As a coach and a father I am a major proponent of youth sports," one of the coaches of the Taney squad, Reggie Cummings told Metro. "I think it teaches camaraderie, how to pick yourself up if you get knocked town, and that you can't do it all on your own. To be open and accepting and rely on a teammate to get through. It teaches so many different things and it is critically important for all of the kids and coaches to constantly remind the kids how important sports are, to take it seriously."
The kids on in the Taney Youth Baseball Organization hail mostly from Philadelphia Public Schools, and it is no secret the school system in the inner city is facing tough times due to budget shortfalls. Cummings and the rest of the coaching staff hope their success can bring a renewed emphasis on keeping youth sports alive in Philadelphia.
"In terms of Philly Public schools," Cummings said, "I think this is going to be a force for them maybe to go back in, look at some budgets and keep inner city sports alive. It's key to the kids' survival to teach them how to be well rounded and give them a place to go and something to do -- to be creative and have an outlet for their talent. Youth sports are important and I believe the Taney Organization being here, it is definitely going to force folks back at home to revisit inner city sports."
The Mid-Atlantic team is one of just a handful still standing, and media attention continues to hound them to an almost deafening level. But the kids know the reason they are there is to play baseball, and none of the attention has distracted anyone from working hard toward a common goal.
"I think they are handling it in stride, Cummings said. "It's coming from their own nature and from what we do as coaches, and from their parents. We have a great group of kinds, they're extremely humble, they understand what it means to pay in the Little League World Series. They are excited to represent the city of Philadelphia. We have a tagline, 'tough and gritty those kids from the city.' It's a little overwhelming but they're handling it."