The 13-year-old star female pitcher and her Taney Dragons teammates who thrilled Philadelphians – and many others – at the Little League World Series got to meet their favorite major league team Wednesday night.
The Philadelphia Phillies hosted a pre-game tribute to the team at Citizens Bank Park. Their game against the Washington Nationals started 28 minutes late because of the festivities. The Dragons walked through a procession onto the field and were greeted by the Phillies, including the Phillie Phanatic.
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After Mayor Michael Nutter and slugger Howard spoke to the crowd, all 12 members of the Dragons threw out first pitches simultaneously to Phillies players.
Earlier in the day, the Dragons received champion’s treatment with a downtown parade.
Thousands of office workers and city residents lined a major thoroughfare to cheer the Dragons and Mo’ne, who made it onto the cover of Sports Illustrated.
”A lot of people were here,” Mo’ne told WPVI-TV after the parade. ”I didn’t think that many people would be here, but it was nice.”
Manager Alex Rice told reporters he was thrilled with the tremendous support the team received at the parade.
”It was very impressive,” Rice said. ”Who turned out is what I’m so taken aback by. You start in town with office workers and it just got better and better as it went down Broad Street.”
The Dragons represented the mid-Atlantic region in the World Series. They won their first two games before being eliminated, losing to Las Vegas and to eventual U.S. champion Chicago.
Mo’ne became the first female pitcher to win a game in the series’ 68-year history, and her last start drew record-setting TV ratings for the series.
”They did a good job of bringing the city together,” said Jerome Belo, 55, who on a day off made it a point to be on hand to watch the start of the parade. ”They took the focus off the negative in the city.”
The city has been scarred this summer by a number of tragedies, including the deaths of four children in a row house fire and the deaths of a mother and her three young children in an accident caused by carjackers. Philadelphia has also been struggling to cope with a school funding crisis.
Others at the parade, such as 49-year-old Eleanor White, said the team united the city through its play on the field and the parade itself.
”You have all different walks of life, you have all cultures together,” said White as she walked along the parade route on Market Street. White added that she was ”speechless” and was brought to tears by the emotion of the day.
The team traveled about 4 miles by float from the downtown business district to a park in south Philadelphia for a rally. Musical performances were held along the route.
After the team was eliminated last week by Chicago, it received a huge welcome by the city on Sunday, with cheering crowds in Love Park.
The previous parade the city hosted to honor an athletic accomplishment was in October 2008 after the Phillies won the World Series, ending a 25-year championship drought by the city’s four major professional franchises.
AP Sports Writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this story.