WASHINGTON D.C. – When it’s raining hard, like it was most of Thursday afternoon, most baseball teams give up for the day.
Don’t expect the Mamie Johnson squad out of Southeast D.C. to give up that easily.
“I didn't think we were going to make it out of pool play-- they were just playing flat,” said Keith Barnes, head coach for the team of 11-12-year-olds. “I think they realized what was at stake and they seemed like they just wanted it.”
“They were making plays we haven't seen them make all year,” said Barnes. “They were making diving catches, throwing players out from their knees-- hitting doubles, triples.”
That great play led to a D.C. Little League Championship. It’s the first for a predominately black team and a first for one hailing from the east side of the Anacostia River.
It also sets up a weekend tournament in Connecticut that if the team wins would put them into the Little League World Series.
The team is based out of the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy which gives it access to indoor workout facilities and immaculate artificial turf fields.
“Every other field in the city may be washed out but in 45 minutes we can go and practice,” said Barnes. “We can always get a lot more work in here.”
That may sound like an unfair advantage but just think about where baseball was a few years ago. Three leagues in Southeast had to be combined because there weren’t enough players to field a team in each league.
“They've come a long way,” said Barnes.
The Nationals shared pictures of the team on a visit they made Thursday to Nationals Park. All photos courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club.