The first question Mo’ne Davis received at a news conference in Birmingham regarded how warm it was inside the team’s 1947 tour bus.
That’s not exactly what Steve Bandura had in mind.
Bandura is the coach of the Philadelphia-based Anderson Monarchs Baseball Team. And the educational purpose for allowing a team of 13 and 14-year-olds on a 23-day, 21-city civil rights barnstorming bus tour is clear.
For six months, Bandura gathered the team for two hours on a Friday night for reading, discussion and watching documentaries related to civil rights history before starting the tour in a vintage bus on June 17 in Washington, D.C.
Bandura drives home the point to his players that young people can make a difference. And that was emphasized on the southern tour as the team learned about the the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
“If change is going to happen – their generation is going to have to make it happen,” Bandura said.
The team visited several landmarks, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Atlanta and the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.
The team also walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. The players stood near the steps of Little Rock Central High School. The team also visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.
The team also visited and took photos with Hank Aaron.
“It’s just been unbelievable,” Bandura said. “…To actually go out and visit those places and experience the history first hand is just incredible.”
Davis earned national acclaim last summer as the first female pitcher to win a Little League World Series game. Her celebrity status is well-known.
The Anderson Monarchs have been featured by ESPN, The New York Times, USA Today Sports and other prominent news outlets.
But, this is not a celebrity tour.
The 1947 touring bus has no air-conditioning. The players leave their smartphones and other electronic devices at home.
While Davis was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2014 and is the focus of media stories around the team, Bandura has limited solo interviews and autographs and prefers to focus on what the team has learned.
“This is too important from an education standpoint,” Bandura said.
Davis is one of seven players on the Anderson Monarchs that played for the Taney Dragons when they reached the 2014 Little League World Series.
When Davis and her teammates visited the 16th Street Baptist Church last week they were eager for a deeper understanding about the history of a location where a 1963 bombing killed four girls.
“We learned all about this,” Davis told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “But seeing it all is really different.”
Davis and her Monarchs teammates will be recognized on the field during pregame ceremonies Wednesday at Great American Ball Park. The Reds host the Twins at 12:35 p.m.
Major League Baseball is one of the sponsors of this tour. The team was recognized by the Washington Nationals in mid-June.
“The Reds have been outstanding,” Bandura said. “To reach out to us and arrange this on the verge of their All-Star Game…it’s way above and beyond.”
The Monarchs were scheduled to visit the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville on Tuesday and arrive in Cincinnati on Wednesday morning.
The team will attend the Reds game on Wednesday afternoon and scrimmage players from the Six Men Tigers (from Evanston and Walnut Hills) and the Avondale A’s at the P&G Cincinnati MLB Urban Youth Academy at 6:15 p.m.
Bandura, 54, said the team hopes to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center on Thursday morning.
Bandura said the tour has definitely resonated with the players especially this summer. The deadly shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston occurred on the first night of the team’s tour.
“The entire country needs this education,” Bandura said.