SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Wallie Arrezola was sitting in his Seminole, Texas, home last week watching Mo'ne Davis pitch her Taney baseball team to a regional title and into the Little League World Series when the 63-year-old retiree said he was suddenly inspired.
"I said, 'I have to see her for myself, see if she's for real. I've gotta go to Williamsport,'" he said.
And so he did, driving 1,800 miles by himself over four days, taking a seat down the right-field line on an overcast Friday afternoon, and settling in to watch the 13-year-old girl from Philadelphia with the 70 mile-per-hour fastball.
He was hardly alone.
Among the 15,648 fans at Howard J. Lamade Stadium was Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who predicted Davis would someday play pro ball.
"That's very crazy," said Davis after her two-hit, eight-strikeout shutout led Taney, the Mid-Atlantic representatives, to a 4-0 victory over Nashville, the Southeast regional champs. "I didn't even expect that."
Not too crazy, apparently.
"If I do stay in baseball," she continued, "hopefully, I can be a professional pitcher."
If she does, she will already have won the approval of current pros; several weighed in via Twitter, including Angels outfielder Mike Trout and Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman. But the biggest thrill for the girl whose lifelong dream has been to play point guard for UConn was one from her idol, Kevin Durant, who tweeted: "This youngster is striking everybody out and she is a girl. I love it. #itsanewday"
"It means a lot, actually," Davis said.
Barely into her teens and not yet out of middle school, Davis said her Instagram followers have grown to 5,000-plus and she has achieved the true sign of celebrity status having already attracted a fake Twitter account.
"I think I'm just going to go public," she said of her Instagram account. "Then I won't have to accept all of them."
The idea of being a role model, much less a celebrity, is still dawning on Davis, who had little girls chanting her name, grown men holding up signs (one that said, "I Want to Throw Like a Girl") and teenage boys alike signing her praises Friday.
Daniel Plunkett, 16, of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, comes to the Little League World Series every year, he said, but seeing Davis this year was a bonus. Told that Davis will most likely play on the high school boys' varsity baseball team as an eighth-grader, Plunkett merely shrugged.
"As long as she's good and likes what she does, I don't see a problem with it," he said. "It'll be a challenge, but if she wants the challenge, go for it."
Ryan McNeill, 12, from Downingtown, Pennsylvania, was impressed that Davis was so effective as a pitcher against some opponents who are much bigger and stronger. "She's better than most boys," he said. "And she's not a huge kid [at 5-foot-4, 105 pounds]. It's especially good she's sticking with it."
Arrezola, who said the Little League World Series "was on my bucket list," marveled at Davis' arm. "I've seen girls play, but never a pitcher," he said. "She puts other pitchers to shame."