WILLIAMSPORT - Before every Taney Dragons game, Gerry Davis texts his son, Carter, the same message.
"I say, 'What you are doing is playing the game you have loved since you were 8 years old and you're doing it with your friends," he said. "That's what matters - none of the hoopla."
But after last night's 7-6 comeback win, and with a fan base that seems to be multiplying exponentially, the ballyhoo surrounding the Dragons may be hard for the ballplayers to ignore.
After the game was over, Gerry Davis, sweat dripping down his brow, shared high-fives and looks of ecstatic shock with fellow Taney parents in the stands of Lamade Stadium.
"Unbelievable!" he shouted. "The Taney team is all heart and hard work."
Closing pitcher Erik Lipson's dad, Erik - who called his adorably goofy son "so out there" - couldn't contain his elation.
"It's the most exciting comeback we had this season!" he screamed.
Lipson's sister, who held off checking into college at Carnegie-Mellon University yesterday so she could attend, said the game was "really, really" stressful.
"But they are team that never gives up," she said. "That shows a lot."
By yesterday afternoon, the Little League complex had sold completely out of the Mid-Atlantic gear worn by Taney, according to Little League officials. A spokesman said more Mid-Atlantic gear has been ordered; every other team still had product in stock.
Coincidentally, for the first time this year, the colors for the Mid-Atlantic team were changed to maroon and powder blue - like the old Phillies uniforms - before anybody knew Philadelphia would represent the region.
Clothing wasn't the only popular item of Mid-Atlantic paraphernalia at the stadium. Mo'ne Davis' stepfather, Mark Williams, was closely guarding a stack of "Go Mo!" posters.
"I was handed these posters and people almost tackled me - I don't even know who they were!" he laughed.
Davis said he couldn't get over how girls were following the Taney Dragons everywhere, especially to and from practice.
"One little girl got a high-five from Mo'ne," he said. "I thought she was going to pass out - and I didn't have any water to throw on her."
Jared Sprague-Lott, who slammed a three-run homer in Friday night's game, was the starting pitcher. His grandmother, Janet Sprague, said he was nervous.
"Mo'ne is a pretty hard act to follow, but I think he feels the support of the entire team," she said. "They really care about each other. Watching the other teams, I realize we really have something special here."
Janet Sprague, 76, and her husband, Dick, have been "following Jared all his life" and said from the time he was born, he wanted a ball in his hands.
"I thought, 'I'm his grandmother, I'm a sports nut, I just think he's awesome,' " she said. "But now, I realize, he may actually be awesome."
Janet Sprague said at this time last summer, the family was at their summer house in Bethany Beach, Del.
"I remember Jared was sitting on the couch with his dad watching the Little League World Series and I said, 'What's this all about?' " she said. "Never did he expect to be here, in Williamsport, for his summer vacation this year."
But the unexpected summer trip to Williamsport hasn't been easy for everyone. While the team had enough funding to get here, they need to raise more money now that they are going to go deeper in the tournament and families have to stay longer in Williamsport, said Bryant Simon, whose son, Eli, is a Taney Dragon.
"The team comes from all different socio-economic backgrounds. For all of us, in different ways, there's financial hardships involved," he said.
Given that the Taney Dragons' next game is Wednesday, many of the parents had to travel back to the Philadelphia area late last night or early this morning to work.
Davis, a former Presbyterian pastor who is now a self-employed marriage therapist, said he was traveling back and dealing with clients today and tomorrow and would return to Williamsport for Wednesday's game.
"I'm self-employed and if I don't work, I don't get paid," he said. "A lot of these families have flexible schedules, but a lot of them don't."
As Davis and his wife, Carey, walked out of the stadium, he turned and said to nobody in particular: "This is not a team of stars. This is a team."
Among the estimated crowd of 32,000 was local resident Gwen Stiger, of Loyalsock Township, who got in line for a stadium seat at 9 a.m. for the 7 p.m. game. The 46-year-old said she grew to love baseball when her parents would take her to Phillies games in Philadelphia after she received treatment at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
"These kids play better than major leaguers that make millions a year - and they play only for the love of the game," she said.
If you would like to make a donation to help the Taney Dragons' families, please visit taney12ubaseball.weebly.com.