It’s always good for young people to know the history of the game. This way they have a chance to learn about the sacrifices and the people who have paved the way for them to play the games they enjoy so much.
The Anderson Monarchs, a 10-11-year old baseball team from the Marian Anderson Recreation Center near 17th and Fitzwater Streets, will take its team on a barnstorming tour across the country in an effort to pay tribute to Negro League baseball and Jackie Robinson. Steve Bandura, Monarchs head coach, organized this trip, which will give the kids a chance to play baseball, learn the history, meet Major League players and Negro League stars. The team will ride across country in a 1947 Flxible Clipper bus, just like the ones Negro League players rode on.
The journey will take 22 days and cover 4,000 miles. Bandura knows this will be quite a trip for these youngsters.
“This year is the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color line and breaking into the majors (with the Brooklyn Dodgers),” Bandura said. “We’re going to take the 1947 bus just like the Negro League players. It’s an authentic bus. It’s awesome. It’s a really cool concept.
“We’ll be playing 17 games over 20 some days. We’ll be playing a mix of teams. We’ll be playing some RBI programs and suburban all-star teams. Major League Baseball and Vincera Core Physicians are sponsoring the trip. We really appreciate the support from them.
“This is a big year. It’s Jackie Robinson’s 65th anniversary. It’s also the 50th anniversary of Buck O’Neil becoming the first Black coach in the majors. The kids will be able to learn more about the history of the game. When we go to towns where major league teams [are] we’re going to be on the field meeting African American players and the players from both teams. When we go to New York we’ll meet Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and CC Sabathia.”
The Monarchs have a terrific pitcher who is girl, Mo’ne Davis. She will meet another famous pitcher on this trip.
“When we go to Washington, D.C., we’re going to have Mo’ne meet Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, who pitched in the Negro Leagues,” Bandura said. “She played for the Indianapolis Clowns. I just spoke to her last week. She’s going to come out and throw the first pitch. After that, we’re going to the Lincoln Memorial that night where Marian Anderson gave a concert.”
Davis is really excited about making the long trip and going to a number of historic places.
“It’s going to be fun,” Davis said. “I’m going to have a lot of learning on the tour to see what the whole country is about.”
In addition to Davis, teammates Sami Wylie and Terrence Rainey, both outfielders, are looking forward to the various stops along the way.
“I can’t wait to go to Kansas City because of the all-star game and the home run derby,” Wylie said. “Matt Kemp (Los Angeles Dodgers) is my favorite player. I met him when the Dodgers came here (to play the Phillies). He’s a good player.”
“I’m looking forward to going around to the different states and meeting the players,” Rainey said. “I can’t wait for the Home Run Derby in Kansas City. The bus is going to be hot. We won’t have any air conditioning. But I’ll be with my teammates and they’re family.”
The tour will begin on June 30 in New York City. After that, they will go to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Dyersville (Iowa), Kansas City, Columbia (Mo.), St. Louis, Louisville, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, South Point (Ohio), Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Cooperstown (N.Y.). Aside from New York and Washington, D.C., the big stops will be Pittsburgh, where they’ll meet Josh Gibson’s great grandson, Sean Gibson. Then there’s the MLB All-Star Game in KC and the final stop in Cooperstown, the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. The entire tour will end on July 23.
This isn’t the first barnstorming trip for the Monarchs. Bandura put together a tour in 1997, which was the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s trailblazing efforts in baseball. That team opened the doors for this year’s club in terms of the ground breaking accomplishments for inner city kids playing baseball.
“The first team had to deal with a lot more than we do now,” Bandura said. “Things are a lot different than they were 15 years ago from my perspective with our teams here. Every generation is getting a little bit better. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than it was.
“But this group that we have now I wanted to do the tour with them. Our teams are competing at a higher level than we’ve ever competed at. We had three teams last year in the Department of Recreation A League that won championships not only in baseball, but in basketball and soccer as well. In fact, this team that’s going on this tour has the same roster for all the sports.”
Bandura has made some huge strides in getting more African Americans and youngsters in general playing baseball in the city. It’s not all about baseball for these youngsters. The kids who have played with the Monarchs go on to play college baseball and receive a good education. The field at the recreation center has a number of retired jerseys from several kids who played for the Monarchs.
This group has already benefited from a good foundation. Moreover, the Monarchs are creating a greater awareness through social media. Bandura is hoping people will follow them on this latest tour.
“We have a big push with our social media campaign,” Bandura said. “We’re doing a video and it’s called “Get on board with the Anderson Monarchs.” By getting on board, we mean our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @AndersonMonarch. If you do that, you’ll get updates every day. You’ll get video highlights, pictures, kids blogging at each step and daily updates. This should be a great trip for everybody.”
NOTES: The Monarchs roster includes the following players: Nasir Jackson, Darius Isaac, Demetrius deRamus, Tyree Sheard, Myles Eaddy, Sami Wylie, Scott Bandura, Tamir Brooks, Brandon Gibbs, Femi Awodesu, Mo’ne Davis, Terrence Rainey, Alex Johnson, Jahli Hendricks and Cole McNeil.