The exploits of the magnificent Mo'ne Davis have the sports world aflutter, in the best of ways.
The 13-year-old Philadelphia phenom has already accomplished so much: a shutout in the Little League World Series, the cover of Sports Illustrated, towering TV ratings and global attention for an overdue, refreshing mix of athletic talent and beyond-her-years humility.
Now that she and her Taney teammates have bowed out of the competition, we'll all wonder what comes next for Mo'ne. In the meantime, though, we can revisit what has come before.
This year, Davis and Emma March, a Little Leaguer from Vancouver, Canada, continued a tradition of girls in the Little League World Series that dates back 30 years.
I spent the week attempting to track down as many of these pioneers as I could (other than Mo'ne and Emma, whom I figured were busy enough already, and other recent competitors who are still in their young teenage years). I managed to get in touch with four of them. Here's a little bit about them and the rest of this elite 18:
1984: Victoria Roche, Belgium: There always has to be a first, and Roche brought an appropriately worldly background to the history books. She was a 12-year-old born and orphaned in Seoul, South Korea, and then adopted by British parents living in Brussels. The 5-foot, 94-pound sparkplug whose manager said she beat out nine boys for her spot on the team because "she's no schlepper" made it to Williamsport with her teammate brother, 11-year-old outfielder Jeremy, and immediately expressed distaste with all the attention she was getting for being the first girl in Little League's biggest dance.
"We were watching me on television last night," she told The Associated Press in 1984. "It was pretty awful. I'd rather be just like the other boys."
1989: Victoria Brucker, San Pedro, Calif.: Another Little League World Series, another first -- well, make that four firsts. Brucker, who's now wife and mom and teacher Victoria Ruelas, was the first girl to start a game, the first girl to pitch, the first to bat cleanup and the first girl to get a hit in a LLWS game. Her team lost in the U.S. championship to the club from Trumbull, Conn., that featured future NHL star Chris Drury and would go on to win the LLWS title.
"There was always something about playing with guys that made it more fun," Ruelas told the Los Angeles Times in 2008. "If guys have a problem with you, they'll tell you straight out, whereas if girls have a problem, you'll hear it through the grapevine two days later; it's all chit-chat behind everybody's back. That wasn't me."
1990: Kelly Craig, Trail, British Columbia, Canada: Craig became the first girl to start a Little League World Series game on the mound when she pitched the '90 opener against Mexico. Future three-time All-Star Jason Bay was one of her teammates. Her dad, Neil, was the coach of the team, and he said back then that his daughter was playing baseball and other sports as soon as she could walk.
"When neighborhood kids would have scrub games, she'd be right there," Neil Craig told the AP in 1990. "She played hockey, too, until a couple of years ago, and she still plays basketball."
1991: Giselle Hardy, Saudi Arabia: Giselle is American but grew up in the city of Jeddah because her father was a pilot for Saudi Arabian Airlines. Her local team made it to the LLWS when she was hardly 11. Now's she's barely 34, married, the mother of a little girl and boy, and a teacher at an international school in Istanbul, Turkey.
I reached her by email and she called her experience in Williamsport "overwhelming."
"Being a shy person, I was not ready for the attention I got for being a girl," she wrote. "I can remember my teammates becoming resentful of the fact that I was being interviewed constantly just for being a girl. I can understand in retrospect that it's a story every time a girl goes to the LLWS, but at the time it was attention that not only put a lot of pressure on me, but also created bitterness between myself and my teammates."
I also asked her if she's still involved with the game.
"Funny that you mention that," she wrote. "I was just at an office today asking the community here in Istanbul to put a baseball field up near my house. Now that my son is older I am trying to organize a T-ball team. In the next few weeks we will be having our first practice and we will see from there. It will be a tough start, as there is no baseball culture here, but we'll do our best.
"I still play catch from time to time with older kids and it's still very comfortable, like an old glove."
1994: Krissy Wendell, Brooklyn Center, Minn.: She's now Krissy Wendell-Pohl, and she's more known for ice hockey than baseball, but, well, that's what happens when you're on the United States Olympic Team that skates to a silver medal at the Salt Lake Games in 2002 and the captain of the bronze-medal-winning squad at the 2006 Games in Torino.
Wendell-Pohl is now a mom and an assistant high school hockey coach along with her husband, John, and she'll soon host a local TV show featuring high school sports in Minnesota.
Long before all of this, Krissy Wendell was the first girl to start at catcher in a Little League World Series, and I spoke to her over the phone this week about those experiences. She remembers first-year network ESPN2 broadcasting the tournament in the midst of the Major League Baseball strike and beating a team from Northridge, Calif., whose community had just been devastated by an earthquake.
"There was also all this attention because I was only the fifth girl to compete there," she said. "My dad was the coach, and I remember having the discussion with him, you know, 'OK, at what point can I go swim with the rest of the guys?'
"I hadn't felt different because I played with all the guys for so long, in baseball and in hockey, and they just viewed me as Krissy, but Williamsport was weird because of all the interviews."
Wendell-Pohl said she was assigned an "aunt" to make her feel more comfortable around the Williamsport compound, which included an arcade and the pool she so badly wanted to visit.
"All I wanted to do was swim and hang out," she said. "It was like a two-week vacation hanging out with your buddies all day."
1998: Sayaka Tsushima, Osaka, Japan: She entered the Little League World Series with a flourish and left her mark for years to come. Tsushima took the stage with her Kashima team and beat the defending champion from Guadalupe, Mexico, in her team's first game en route to a LLWS run that would fall one game short. Japan lost the final to the team from Toms River, N.J., that featured future big leaguer Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds, but Tsushima had become the first girl to play in a LLWS championship game.
Tsushima went 0-for-3 in the final, but she made noise in the opening game, hitting a single, drawing a walk and scoring two runs in Kashima's 6-1 victory.
"She's the No. 1 fighter on the team," her manager, Atsushi Ohkawa, told reporters.
1999: Alicia Hunolt, Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany: I caught up with Alicia Hunolt over the phone during rare down time from her studies. She's 27 years old and working on a Ph.D. in Environmental Science (focus on air and water quality) at Virginia Tech. She hadn't heard what Mo'ne Davis was doing because, as she said, "I don't allow myself on the Internet to do fun things much."
Fifteen years ago, she did fun things on a baseball field, though, and her team from Ramstein (her dad was in the Air Force) ended up in Williamsport. She, like most girls who make it to the LLWS, wasn't quite ready for the publicity fixated on her gender.
"I was young, but I was old enough to know I was getting more attention than everybody else even though I wasnít playing as much as them," she said. "I also remember the free ice cream. That was the best part."
After Little League, Hunolt played baseball through her freshman year of high school but transitioned to softball in hopes of getting a college scholarship. It worked, and she played for Auburn for four years and earned a Masters degree.
She said she has stayed involved with the game, coaching Little League and giving lessons, but she's getting the itch to play baseball again because it's a bit slower than softball.
"After I graduate, I might look into the community leagues," she said. "I want to play baseball because I'm old now."
2001: Tatiana Maltseva, Moscow, Russia: Maltseva made two kinds of history 13 years ago. She was the first girl from Russia to play in the Little League World Series, and she was on the first Khovrino Little League team to make it to Williamsport.
Then, when she got there, Maltseva, the Moscow club's backup catcher, was not made available for interviews because she was too shy.
"She is such a terrific little girl and a very good ballplayer," manager Mikhail Kornev told USA Today in 2001. "[But] because she is younger than the other catcher, she usually plays two or three innings a game."
2002: Sanoe Aina, Waipahu, Hawaii: Her mother was so sure that her team would make it to Williamsport that she bought plane tickets from Honolulu before the regionals were even complete. Then, when Sanoe arrived in Pennsylvania to meet her club, her mom, Laurie, had more to say.
"I don't know what kind of reaction she will get from boys from other countries," Laurie Aina told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 2002. "but she has always been kind of a tough skin. She will get up there and hit a home run and show them who she is."
Sanoe didn't hit a homer, but she did create a lasting memory as the ninth girl to suit up in the LLWS.
"Sometimes, I don't like all the attention," Sanoe told the AP at the time. "People are going, 'You're the girl from Hawaii, aren't you?' And I'm just a player like anyone else.
"I don't think of myself as anything special ... I just want to play baseball."
2003: Merced Flores, Agana, Guam: These days, Merced Flores is a 23-year-old student majoring in criminal justice and making headlines in her native Guam as a fast-pitch softballer and -- get this -- a football player.
Yep, Flores is the starting quarterback for the Island Stunnerz of the Women's Football League (slogan: "Stun one, stun 'em all") and is having a blast on the gridiron.
"I wanted to try something new and fell in love with football," she wrote me in an email. "The last time I played baseball with the boys was at age 15."
She enjoyed every minute of her Little League experience, though, and takes particular pride in having made it to the LLWS.
"The most memorable moments in Williamsport were having the chance to actually step on that diamond, meeting kids from all over the world, and giving autographs and interviews," she wrote.
2004: Meghan Sims, Owensboro, Ky.: Sims, 22, has been fielding a few phone calls these days asking about her Little League World Series exploits 10 years ago, and she admitted in one interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer that she still has posters from that time on her bedroom walls.
"It's one of the highlights of my life," Sims, who played softball at Murray State and is now pursuing a degree in nursing, told the Inquirer. "When I'm telling people what I've achieved, that's always one thing that I list because nobody else really gets to do that. Nobody gets to play with Japanese players, European players. You don't get to do that every day."
2004: Alexandra Bellini, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Bellini played in the tournament the same year as Sims. In fact, the two pitched against each other in a consolation game, making even more history.
Bellini acted like an old pro at the age of 12, cracking a smile while telling MLB.com late in the tournament that, "The first few interviews were awkward, but I'm used to it now."
2008: Brielle Meno, Yona, Guam: Meno became the 13th girl to play in the LLWS, the first in four years, and the second from Guam, following in Flores' spiked steps. She also provided one of the more understated answers to the barrage of questions she received from the media as the only female player in Williamsport that year.
"It was nice," Meno told the AP after seeing Lamade Stadium for the first time. "It looked bigger than I thought."
2009: Bryn Stonehouse, Saudi Arabia: Stonehouse was born in Texas but moved with her family to Saudi Arabia. She arrived at the Little League World Series at the age of 13 with pride at what her team had accomplished as well as one non-baseball goal, which she stated to ESPN.com: to "go out and eat food that you don't get to eat when you are in Saudi Arabia."
Stonehouse is in Texas again, now a college student embarking on studies in social work, according to The New York Times.
"I am really proud and extremely blessed to be a part of this select group," she told the newspaper, while adding that she hopes to play intramural softball in her time away from classes.
2009: Katie Reyes, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: Reyes had an oustanding game on the last day of pool play in the 2009 LLWS, becoming the first girl to drive in a game-winning run when she hit a two-run single to beat Germany, 14-13. Reyes' Vancouver team didn't make it to the next round, but she had three hits and three RBIs in the game and made the final out at first base.
"I was excited," she told the AP afterwards. "I was shaking."
Reyes has continued her love of the game, signing a letter of intent in February to play softball at Howard College in Big Spring, Texas.
2013: Eliska Stejskalova, Czech Republic: Stejskalova might have been the only girl at last year's tournament -- which was noticed in a tweet from Katie Couric -- but it didn't come by accident. In an interview with local TV station WNEP, Czech Republic coach Pavel Chadim explained.
"She is good," he said. "That is why she is here."
So good, in fact, that she beat out a family member for the spot on the roster.
"She has two brothers," Chadim said. "One is her twin. He is not here and she is. It means she is very good."
2014: Emma March, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: With all the Mo'ne talk, it's been easy to forget that there was another girl on the grounds this week. March, who cited fellow Vancouverite Katie Reyes as her baseball hero, did some pitching and played a little first base for her team in Williamsport, got to know Davis pretty well, and had some inspiring things to say when it was all said and done.
"I hope other girls will continue to play baseball because I know when I started, I was timid and I was shy, but I want other girls to know that you can play baseball because girls can do anything boys can do if you just work hard and practice," March told ESPN.com.
"You have to love the sport, of course, and have fun. It's a great sport."
2014: Mo'ne Davis, Philadelphia: What more is there to say about this trailblazer in braids? We simply look forward to the next chapter.