Look closely and you will see something unusual when the Little League World Series begins Thursday. A blonde ponytail is peeking out from one of the players’ helmets.
“It’s a dream coming true,” Freking told Minneapolis’s Fox affiliate. “Just to be there is really amazing.”
Freking is the starting second baseman for the Coon Rapids-Andover team that advanced to Williamsport as the Midwest champion. Freking, described as a “vacuum” at second, made headlines over the weekend when her sweet double play in the regional final turned up on “SportsCenter” in her team’s victory Saturday over Iowa. Her team was trailing, 5-1, with the bases loaded in the fourth inning when she turned the DP and went on to an 8-6 victory on Jameson Kuznia’s three-run homer when the score was 5-5.
The last girl from Minnesota to play in Williamsport was @KrissyWendell. Maddie Freking is about to change that. #GirlsWithGame pic.twitter.com/KZesgMBScJ— Little League (@LittleLeague) August 10, 2019
“Some people say, ‘Woah,’ ” Freking said of people’s reaction to seeing her (via the Pioneer Press). “Some think it’s cool, some not so much.”
Her team plays the Great Lakes champion team from Bowling Green, Ky., in a first-round game at about 7 p.m. Eastern time Thursday (ESPN2).
“[We’re on] cloud nine,” Freking’s coach, Greg Bloom, told Fox 9. “When we started this process in June, we kind of knew we had the team that could make it. We just had to put a lot of work in to get there.”
In 1984, Victoria Roche, who played for the Brussels team, became the first girl to play in the LLWS, which changed its charter to allow girls to play in 1974. Five years after Roche’s appearance, Victoria Brucker of the Eastview team from California became the first American girl to play in the Series. Krissy Wendell, who went on to be the captain of the U.S. women’s hockey team that won silver in the 2002 Olympics and bronze at the 2006 Games, played in 1994 for Minnesota’s Brooklyn Center team.
“It’s cool that there are only a few other girls in Little League and I’m one of them who have made it this far,” Freking told the Star-Tribune.
A Minnesota Twins fan who also plays volleyball and basketball, Freking said her favorite player is Miguel Sanó, and she admires Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier. She also is a fan of her immediate predecessor, Davis, and realizes she might get the kind of attention Davis did.
“We told her if [it] gets to be too much, just let us know, us coaches, and we’ll try to tell people to take a break,” Bloom told the Star-Tribune. “But I’ve warned her to expect to get a lot of attention. This doesn’t happen very often.”
A dominant pitcher with Philadelphia’s Taney Dragons, Davis was the first girl to pitch a shutout in the LLWS, going on to strike out 14 and allow five hits combined in back-to-back shutouts. Along the way, she became a breakout star, making the cover of Sports Illustrated and landing a spot on the ESPYs. It was, she admitted in 2018, a lot to absorb. “I was a kid,” she said. “I wasn’t prepared for this.”
Now, she is a freshman at Virginia’s Hampton University, where she will play softball and study for a career, she hopes, in TV. She made the switch from baseball to softball when, as she advanced through high school, she was increasingly relegated to the bench.
“I wanted to do something for the next four years … to have fun, and softball was it,” she told Sports Illustrated recently in a “Where are they now” feature guaranteed to make you feel old. “Nowadays sports are a little too serious. … I just try to have as much fun as possible.”
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