WASHINGTON -- From the instant she walked onto the stage, the crowd roared with applause. More than 250 mayors from across the United States were gathered in the Capital Hilton banquet hall for the Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Wednesday afternoon without any idea they would
WASHINGTON -- From the instant she walked onto the stage, the crowd roared with applause. More than 250 mayors from across the United States were gathered in the Capital Hilton banquet hall for the Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Wednesday afternoon without any idea they would be joined by a special guest.
They reached for their phones to capture a photo or a video as Mo'ne Davis, the first African-American girl to pitch in the Little League World Series and the first girl to throw a shutout, walked out onto the stage. Davis, now 17 and committed to play softball at Hampton (Va.) University next year, recalled how nervous she was when she got the chance to play on an all-boys baseball team for the first time growing up in South Philadelphia.
Now, as an ambassador for Major League Baseball's Play Ball initiative, Davis spoke to the crowd of mayors about the impact sports and baseball has made on her life, one which she called "life changing."
"I just want people to give other kids around the country the same opportunity that I had," Davis told the crowd. "It'll change their life, it'll change everyone's life and it'll just change the whole world. Support Play Ball and give those kids an opportunity, because it'll change everyone's life."
It is the hallmark behind the partnership between MLB and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which began in 2015 and helps provide opportunities for kids around the country to play baseball. A year ago, 304 mayors from all 50 states and Puerto Rico pledged to host "Play Ball Summer" events, giving more than 36,000 youth a chance to participate in events in their communities. It's come a long way since the program had 125 mayors when it launched in '15 and many cities partnered with their local Little, Minor or Major League baseball teams.
It's an all-out effort to continue to increase participation in baseball and softball and give kids a chance to play the game. The partnership with the mayors, which runs through 2020, has been what Commissioner Rob Manfred called one of the best decisions he has made during his tenure.
"That's our goal, to grow our game," said MLB executive vice president of baseball and softball development Tony Reagins. "And that relationship is important, because the mayors have a pulse of what the communities want and what they need."
Davis has become an inspiration for many since she rose to stardom as a 13-year-old dominating on the mound in the summer of 2014. At the time, she never considered what kind of role model she was becoming, and she still cannot believe how many people approach her and tell her how she impacted their lives.
She credits sports for all the opportunities it has opened up in her life, and she wants to make sure other kids get the same chances.
"You never know what can happen if you just give one person an opportunity," Davis said. "So I feel like ... you have to tell people that and show them that one opportunity can change a person's life and can change other's lives who are affected by that one person."
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.