A Little League Star, A New Commissioner: The Week In Sports

There's a new Major League Baseball commissioner, and a new star Little League pitcher. NPR's Scott Simon talks to sports correspondent Tom Goldman about the latest from the world of sports.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

I can't wait. Time for sports. And you know what our sports lead is today? - the Little League World Series. And a 13-year-old star has already been born. Oh, yeah, major league baseball has a new commissioner. And the WNBA playoffs are upon us. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Tom, thanks for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: It's a pleasure.

SIMON: Show me the Monae. A 13-year-old hurler, who happens to be a woman, Monae Davis of Philadelphia's Taney Dragons, threw a shutout on Friday. She's the talk of baseball. She's got game.

GOLDMAN: A two-hit shutout with eight strikeouts - mind you. She got at-a-girl tweets from Mike Trout, the best player in major league baseball. Kevin Durant, one of the best players in the NBA - she's got girls younger than her cheering at the World Series. She said, I never thought at the age of 13 I would be a role model. And, Scott, anyone who uses the insult you throw like a girl better take a look at Davis's...

SIMON: (Laughter) I wish. I wish I threw like that girl.

GOLDMAN: Toronto Blue Jays pitcher, Marcus Stroman, tweeted she is an absolute stud - awesome mechanics and great feel for pitching. She's great.

SIMON: By the way, I - look, I would love to see this Philadelphia team wind up in Little League World Series Championship with a great team from Chicago - the Morgan Park neighborhood on the south side - Jackie Robinson West. They're the Great Lakes champion. They defeated Lynnwood Pacific, 12-to-2 under the mercy rule Thursday. Does all of this suggests that - is there a return of baseball to America's inner cities?

GOLDMAN: You know, it sure seems like it when you watch a great African - all African-American team like Jackie Robinson West or a great young player like Monae Davis who is African-American. But, you know, Scott, unfortunately they are still the exception. It's well-documented that baseball has been losing ground of football and basketball as favorite sports to play and watch with African-American kids in inner cities. Youth baseball with expensive travel teams has gotten too pricey for many low-income families. The game isn't seen as exciting as the others - you know, plus there aren't as many opportunities for college scholarships in baseball for the best athletes as there are for, say, football.

SIMON: Major league baseball chose Rob Manfred as its 10th commissioner. From what I understand, you and I didn't get a single vote.

GOLDMAN: I got one.

SIMON: Oh, all right, well, than you be - oh, yeah. Well, OK, you're one ahead of me. Does he have to rekindle some of that romance with the American public? I mean, baseball's crawling in money at the moment but.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, that is one of his challenges. It's crawling in money, indeed - annual revenues of about $9 billion. But that romance you mentioned is fading. We talked about the decline in inner-city America. A Harris Poll this year found 35 percent of adults said football is their favorite sport - 14 percent said baseball. More numbers according to Sports Media Watch - the median age of viewers for last year's World Series was nearly 54 years old. Compare that to last year's NBA finals - 41 years old. So baseball, under Manfred's watch starting in January, is going to have to find a way to bring more fans and more younger fans to the game.

SIMON: Monae Davis says she wants to play the WNBA. Regular season is wrapping up. Who do you like in the playoffs?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, like the NBA, the power is in the West. Phoenix and defending champion Minnesota are the two best teams in the league. They're both in the Western Conference. Only one of them can get to the final. Minnesota is led by the great former UConn star forward Maya Moore. She's the favorite to win the MVP award. Phoenix with the best record has the great Diana Taurasi teaming up with a super Brittney Griner this year. She set a record for blocked shots. Playoffs start next Thursday. It's going to be great pro basketball in August.

SIMON: Tom, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

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