The 2017 Little League World Series didn’t start until Thursday, at least not the part everyone knows in Williamsport, Pa.
But there are 12- and 13-year-old participants who already have earned internet-induced fame. People are tuning into the ESPN family of networks, and they already know about Cash Daniels-Moye from North Carolina, or “the Cash Wagon,” and local slugger Christopher Cartnick from Holbrook Little League in Jackson, N.J.
“It’s real fun,” Richie Gilboy told Bleacher Report. “And yeah, it’s good for the most part. But it can also be bad. And, like, weird.”
You know Gilboy, even though he won’t take an at-bat in Williamsport in the next two weeks. He’s the “Big Daddy Hacks” kid.
"I take big daddy hacks" pic.twitter.com/crt4r4CPP4
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) August 10, 2017
Gilboy made that proclamation before a regional game for his team from Maine then blasted a home run to center field. A Little League legend was born.
What once was a single televised event, the championship game on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” has become a summer behemoth. ESPN has expanded its coverage of the world’s most famous youth baseball tournament several times over.
Now there are kids who can become famous without ever reaching Williamsport, let alone leading their team to victory like past LLWS heroes Chris Drury, Jeff Burroughs and Todd Frazier.
The 2014 LLWS was an example of how the tournament can create star power in sports. Mo’ne Davis from Philadelphia and the Jackie Robinson Little League from Chicago made that a memorable two weeks in Williamsport, and Davis still generates headlines en route to likely being a big-time college basketball recruit.
Not all of the fame is positive. Social media has made every quirky character at a regional tournament an instant star, and this summer has unearthed the dark side of that sudden fame.
Take Ben Diebler, from Vermont. He’s now the “Sup, Mrs. Stevens?” kid.
But he isn’t. That was a fake, a photoshopped screengrab imposed over his less scandalous declaration that “Dumb and Dumber” is his favorite movie. When the fake made the rounds on social media, Diebler unknowingly became a star.
His family isn’t happy about it.
“Deibler’s mother, Mindy, returned calls from B/R about the incident but refused to comment, saying their family just wanted the whole conversation surrounding it to go away,” Bleacher Report wrote.
Some of the fame resulted in personal attacks. Gilboy and his family saw the jokes about his weight.
It was worse for Jeffrey “Boog” Powell, from Tennessee. Barstool Sports, which declined comment to B/R on possibly being responsible for the “Sup, Mrs. Stevens” gag, ridiculed Powell about his weight.
Saturdays may be for the boys for the bro-loving, misogyny-laced website, but Tuesdays in August are for body-shaming jabs at 12-year-old boys, apparently.
“It’s like, I don’t really care,” Powell told Bleacher Report. “But like … it kinda hurts, too. You just try not to show it. Like, you can’t do anything about it. But also, like, why would people say stuff like that about me publicly? I just try not to think about it.
“I do sometimes kind of wish things could just go back to the way they were, though.”