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Mo'ne Davis

Portrait of Mo'ne Davis, photographed in the compound of her home in Willingboro, NJ, September 1, 2016. Luisa Dörr for TIME

First girl to pitch a shutout and win a game in a Little League World Series

‘When the other team saw me face the batter, they were shocked.’

I started playing baseball when I was about 7 or 8. I had been playing football with my cousin and his friends. We were tackling each other, and I was throwing spirals about 30 yards, which is really good for a little girl. My coach gave me his phone number on this little sticky note and told me to give it to my mom. She was very hesitant—she didn’t want me to be playing sports, and she didn’t know it was a boys’ team. Once she found out, she was like, “No.” But somehow we convinced her, and now I think she enjoys it. She enjoys watching me play.

The first time I walked out onto the field to pitch, the other team said I wasn’t going to be good—that they were going to win. They were telling jokes; the parents were laughing. My team and I knew they could laugh all they wanted to … When they saw me face the first batter, they were shocked. You didn’t hear anything from that side of the field. It was fun for us and not fun for them. Just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean anything. I kept getting better, and the game got better.

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- Photograph by Luisa Dörr for TIME
Photograph by Luisa Dörr for TIME

When you throw a fastball and know it’s good, that you can control it, or you throw a first strike and they swing and miss or can’t swing at all—it’s a good feeling. I can’t describe it. It’s like taking a bite in a really good slice of pizza. Once you throw that first pitch or take that bite, everything else is plain and simple, and you enjoy it.

I’m kind of used to striking out guys now, but when I first started, a lot of people didn’t think I was good. So when I struck them out, it just changed everyone’s perspective and how people went into the game. I guess word got around the league to beware of the Monarchs: “They have this girl pitcher. Don’t get too cocky or anything, just play your game.” We sent a good message for our team.

The Monarchs finished the Little League World Series in 2014 with two wins. Davis, now 16, has turned her attention to basketball.

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