You know that the dog days of summer are winding down when the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, begins.
Many sports leagues strive to remind fans of simpler times and hearken back to the purest form of the game. You can't get much simpler and wholesome than watching 11- to 13-year-olds taking the diamond to determine the best team in the world.
The only thing close to a performance-enhancing drug at Howard J. Lamade Stadium is puberty.
Watching the Little League World Series also allows fans to reminisce about those endless summers on the ball field with friends and family.
What's not to love about this event?
One day is already in the books in Williamsport, with four games on the docket for Friday.
|Time (ET)||Team 1||Team 2||TV||Prediction|
|1 p.m.||Canada||Mexico||ESPN||Mexico, 5-2|
|3 p.m.||Pennsylvania||Tennessee||ESPN||Pennsylvania, 4-0|
|5 p.m.||Venezuela||Japan||ESPN2||Japan, 3-2|
|8 p.m.||Texas||Rhode Island||ESPN||Texas, 6-4|
Note: All games are available to live stream on WatchESPN.com.
Day 2 Storylines
Battle of the Unbeatens
Both Japan and Venezuela enter their game on Friday boasting perfect records on the "Road to Williamsport." Japan went 4-0, while Venezuela is riding a five-game winning streak, which all came in a span of eight days.
It's a bit of a shame that these two have to play this early in the tournament. This is a matchup more suitable for the later rounds of the international bracket rather than the opener.
Venezuela has provided Major League Baseball with no shortage of stars, while Japan's presence in MLB is only growing. In addition to that, Japanese teams have won nine LLWS titles, which is second only to Taiwan, who experienced unparalleled dominance in the 1970s.
"Teams from Japan have appeared in the Little League Baseball World Series since 1962, and the country of Japan has been represented as its own region beginning in 2009," said Patrick Wilson, who serves as Little League International's senior vice president, per the league's official website.
Japan is the two-time defending Little League World Series champion in addition to a win in 2010 and a runner-up finish in 2011. En route to second place that year, Japan went through Venezuela in the international semifinal.
None of the Venezuelan players were a part of that team, but country pride might be a motivating factor as they attempt to get a small measure of revenge.
The Legend of Mo'ne Davis Grows
Mo'ne Davis looks set to make her official Little League World Series debut on Friday against Tennessee. Davis, of course, isn't the only girl appearing in Williamsport this year, with Emma March a part of the team from Canada, per ESPN Stats and Info:
Emma March & Mo'ne Davis are 17th & 18th girls to play in LLWS; only 3rd time 2 girls in same year pic.twitter.com/YUQjD2gC59— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 11, 2014
March hasn't quite captured the imagination of the sporting public quite like Davis has, to be fair. This is only a brief smattering of the noise the Taney Little League star is creating on social media:
Mo'ne Davis is a stud!!! I'll be watching whenever she pitches for sure!! 3 hit shutout to go to the World Series!!! #baller— David Price (@DAVIDprice14) August 11, 2014
Who said girls can't play baseball? Yesterday, Mo'Ne Davis threw a complete game shut out to lead her team to the #LLWS!— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) August 11, 2014
Shout out Mo'Ne Davis! Wonderful to see— Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) August 12, 2014
As Mike Tierney of The New York Times wrote, seeing girls in the Little League World Series is becoming less and less of a story:
All of this is no mystery to Dr. David Popoli, a primary care sports medicine physician with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The pool of female athletes has deepened, he said, and with expert instruction honing the biomechanics of all youngsters, “you can be a standout player not just because of your physical prowess.”
As well, he said, boys generally do not start to separate themselves muscularly from girls until around age 15, when higher testosterone levels generate more bulk.
Davis doesn't view herself as any sort of special case, per Matt Breen and Melissa Dribben of The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Davis is expected to be the starting pitcher on Friday afternoon when Taney becomes Philadelphia's first-ever team in the Little League World Series. Davis will be the 18th girl to play in the Little League World Series. Tai Shanahan, one of the team's outfielders, said she "is one of the guys that just happens to be a girl." Davis said her teammates' acceptance of her as a girl player "makes me cry."
"Just kidding," said Davis. "I don't really feel anything."
Even if you remove the "girl playing baseball" storyline, you've got one of the better pitchers in the tournament likely taking the bump on Friday. It's always impressive to watch teenagers throwing wicked curveballs and unleashing fastballs upward of 70-plus mph.
Think back to Aaron Alvey pitching six shutout innings in the 2002 championship game to give Louisville, Kentucky, a title. Danny Almonte remains one of the most memorable LLWS players ever for both positive and negative reasons.
Few players, if any, will be more fun to watch than Davis.