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updated: 8/19/2014 10:44 AM

In Philly, Little League star Mo'ne means money

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  • Pennsylvania's  Mo'ne Davis pitched a shutout last Friday for her team at the Little League World Series tournament in South Williamsport, Pa. Davis is expected to start Wednesday as the Taney team tries to reach the semifinals.

      Pennsylvania's Mo'ne Davis pitched a shutout last Friday for her team at the Little League World Series tournament in South Williamsport, Pa. Davis is expected to start Wednesday as the Taney team tries to reach the semifinals.
    Associated Press

 
By Scott Soshnick
Bloomberg News

The baseball fans visiting Triple Play Sports in Philadelphia aren't interested in the Phillies.

They're fanatical about Mo'ne.

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"The one thing they're asking is: 'How do I get a Mo'ne jersey?'" said Triple Play owner Dewey LaRosa, referring to Mo'ne Davis, who last week became the first girl to pitch a shutout in the 67-year history of the Little League World Series. "Everyone wants that."

Taney Youth Baseball Association merchandise is so hot that after Sunday night's come-from-behind win over Pearland, Texas, LaRosa had to instruct Ellen Siegel, a psychologist who moonlights as the baseball organization's secretary of the board, website designer, registrar and social media department, to stop taking online orders. The Taney website said merchandise is sold out due to unprecedented demand.

"I needed a day to catch my breath," LaRosa said in a telephone interview, noting that he's already received 400 online orders for all things Taney, which on Wednesday faces a team from Las Vegas in South Williamsport, Pa. Davis will probably pitch. The winner advances to the semifinals on Saturday, with the title game on Sunday.

If Taney wins Wednesday's game, LaRosa said he would hire part-time workers to focus on that merchandise as he rushes to fulfill previously placed school uniform orders.

"A mother without her school uniform is a woman to be reckoned with," LaRosa said, laughing. Printing shirts isn't the problem, LaRosa said, noting that his shop is capable of creating 1,000 a day. The difficulty, he said, stems from having to package and ship online orders.

All this is new to LaRosa, Siegel and Taney, which has never sold merchandise. The closest thing, Siegel said, was a parent who once volunteered to have printed sweatshirts made for the the children.

"This is the least sleep I've had since I had a newborn, which was 22 years ago," Siegel said in a telephone interview, adding that even she missed out on the hats, shirts and pins that were being sold in South Williamsport, where Taney's last game drew more than 32,000 fans. "I shouldn't have waited." The gift shop sold out of Taney merchandise before the game ended.

LaRosa said he would have another 500 to 600 Taney items available in his store today. New York-based Modell's Sporting Goods Inc., which sponsors Taney, has sold more than 1,500 items, said Jason Karlowski, the company's manager for sports marketing and public relations. Another 1,000 shirts will reach Philadelphia-area stores today, he said, and more will be available on the website. They cost $10, and all proceeds go to Taney baseball, Karlowski said.

Neither Taney, Modell's or Coraopolis, Pa.-based Dick's Sporting Goods Inc., which donated shirts to the organization, are making merchandise specifically related to Davis. "We're focused on the team as a whole," Karlowski said.

Siegel said she was proud of Davis, who in an interview with ESPN said she wanted reporters to interview more of the other players because baseball is a team game.

Davis, 13, said her athletic wish list includes playing point guard at the University of Connecticut, which has won the last two women's national basketball championships.

"That's my dream," said Davis, who has gotten social media encouragement from celebrities, including NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout.

National Collegiate Athletic Association spokeswoman Meghan Durham declined to comment specifically on Davis's case. However, she said the college sports governing body allows athletes to promote products without compensation before entering college, as long as they take steps to keep the ads from being used when they are in school.

Agent Erin Kane, whose clients at Octagon include Olympic softball pitcher Jennie Finch, whose book is titled "Throw Like a Girl: How to Dream Big & Believe In Yourself," said it would be "a shame" if Davis couldn't cash in.

"As we all know, there is money being made," Kane said. "It would be a shame if she's not able to earn something off this and put it toward college."

ESPN has carried the Little League World Series since 1987. The network pays Little League International about $7.5 million a year in an agreement that runs through 2022, according to SportsBusiness Journal.

LaRosa, meantime, overhears the conversations between kids and their parents in his shop. Their desire for merchandise hasn't changed. The players have.

"They don't want Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins," he said. "These little leaguers are like rock stars."

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