Washington Nationals rally around historic Little League team

Torrey HartYahoo Sports Contributor
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/8193/" data-ylk="slk:Max Scherzer">Max Scherzer</a> is among the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/was" data-ylk="slk:Nationals">Nationals</a> players who supported the Mamie Johnson Little League team on its path to regionals. (AP Photo)
Max Scherzer is among the Nationals players who supported the Mamie Johnson Little League team on its path to regionals. (AP Photo)

Just as its namesake did, the Mamie Johnson Little League team breaks barriers just by playing at the level it does.

Last week, the team became the first-ever predominantly African American little league team to advance to the Little League Mid-Atlantic Regional tournament, the final obstacle en route to the Little League World Series.

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Eleven of the teams’ 12 players are black, and eight went through the Washington Nationals’ Youth Academy, which provides supplementary education and baseball opportunities after school and during the summer.

Friday, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones donated $8,500 to fund the team’s travel to Bristol, Connecticut, but it turns out some Nationals players were already invested in the cause. According to reliever Sean Doolittle, pitcher Max Scherzer and his wife visited the team to donate gear, and pitcher Stephen Strasberg, outfielder Juan Soto, and third baseman Anthony Rendon went in-person to wish them good luck.

While the team lost the regional game 10-2 Sunday, it’s a major win that they were there at all, and the Nationals were reportedly watching the game in the clubhouse.

Who was Mamie Johnson?

In naming the league after Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, founder Keith Barnes and his partners paid homage to the first – and believed only – woman to pitch in the negro leagues, who also happened to be from Washington D.C.

Johnson died at the age of 82 last winter, but before that, she was able to watch the team in the 2017 D.C. Championship game, which they lost. This year, as they won, they wore peanut patches on their uniforms.

She garnered the nickname “Peanut” due to her size: she only stood 5-foot-3 and 120 pounds in her pitching days. Johnson originally tried to pitch in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (of A League of Their Own fame) in the late 1940s, but was denied due to her race, and thus chose to play against men. 

The Mamie Johnson Little League is open to both boys and girls.

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