Mo’ne and Monarchs dazzle during barnstorming tour stop
It shouldn’t be all about Mo’ne Davis.
Heck, I’m sure she’d even say that.
A group of 13-year-old (maybe a few are 14, too?) kids from the Philadelphia area are embarking on a 23-day, 21-city journey as a tribute to Jackie Robinson, the Negro Leagues, and the Civil Rights Movement.
They are doing so in the luxury of a 1947 Flxible Clipper touring bus — one with no AC and all that good, modern stuff (such as electronics). This “barnstorming” tour has taken these kids through the Deep South, the Midwest, and back to the East Coast. When all is said and done, they’ll have traveled more than 4,000 miles together.
The team — named the Anderson Monarchs — had the chance to see some of the most historical spots with the Civil Rights Movement. They met African-American players who played during that era. They played against local teams in the cities they visited. They threw out first pitches at games.
The Monarchs even got the tour of the White House!
With what these kids are learning along the way, this tour shouldn’t be about Mo’ne Davis.
But, in a way, it is.
The intrepid group of kids visited my area Sunday, July 5. That came after a stop in Binghamton on July 4. They were at Oneonta’s historic Damaschke Field on a warm and sunny summer day to play one of the local traveling teams.
Damaschke Field is an historic spot. The former home of the Oneonta Tigers (New York-Penn League), and before that the Oneonta Yankees, Damaschke has seen a lot of incredible players start their professional careers.
Originally built in 1906 (the grandstand was added in 1939), Damaschke is a throwback field. It’s not the prettiest place, but it’s baseball in the truest form. Barnstorming tours came through here many years ago, so having one in the modern era — with a throwback feel — seemed fitting.
So it made sense for this group to stop here. To see some history. And it was a good spot to stop before they continued to Cooperstown the following day.
And Mo’ne was front and center.
For those who aren’t sure who Mo’ne Davis is, well, do a quick Google search and at the top of the page it will show you that there is almost 6,000,000 results. At the top of the search is her Wikipedia page. Yes, a 14-year-old teen girl has a Wikipedia page.
Last summer, she took the sports world by storm as she became the first girl to earn a win and pitch a shutout at the Little League World Series. According to her Wikipedia page, she’s the 18th overall girl to play at the LLWS, the sixth to get a hit and the first African-American girl to play in the LLWS.
How to top that? Well, she’s also the first Little League player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. All in a day’s work, right?
With everything that this tour is about, it shouldn’t be about Mo’ne Davis.
But those who come to these games make sure it is.
Her star power draws people. Yes, she’s just 14 (she turned 14 in late June), but she’s been through more in the past year and change that most teens will see in a lifetime. She’s been under the spotlight and in the eye of the world.
Her smile is shy. She laughs with her teammates. On the field, she plays just like everybody else. She pitches like a fierce competitor. When not pitching Sunday, she played third base. There were times she seemed to let her eyes wander, almost to absorb the surroundings. From watching her, it seems like she would rather take photos with her teammates and with other kids, rather than adults and others who were enamored more by the name than who she is.
Mo’ne walked a few times at the plate, too. Like many kids her age, she jogged down to first, almost upset with the free pass. Hey, she probably wanted to swing the bat and who can blame her?
She gave high fives to her teammates and was part of the team — an important concept to always keep.
To be fair, her teammates and others truly seemed to understand the magnitude of how big Mo’ne is. A year removed from the “spotlight” and she’s still going strong. People clamor to see her. But her teammates — from the average eye — treated her just like a teammate. A friend. Not a superstar who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. And good for them — it’s how it should be.
It shouldn’t be all about Mo’ne Davis.
This trip is special. It teaches these kids the history of the Civil Rights Movement. It teaches them the history of our country. It teaches them about such leaders as Martin Luther King Jr. Hopefully, it gives them an appreciation for what we have today, yet still reminds them that our country has a long way to go in many aspects. Visit the team’s website or the blog of the photographer following them on this tour, and you’ll see what these kids get to learn — an important aspect of this whole experience.
Mo’ne Davis helps bring this tour and the team to the forefront. Every pitch she threw. Every time she batted. Every time she was in viewing — people took photos. They sought autographs. They wanted their photo taken with her.
That night, she threw out the first pitch at an Oneonta Outlaws game. The Outlaws are a collegiate wood-bat league team. After her game, there were some from the teams looking to take a photo with her, too. They then had the chance to head over to one of the local baseball camps.
And, I’m sure, if you spoke to Mo’ne, she could talk about this tour and what it means. What it’s like to spend this journey with her teammates, on this bus, and through all of these cities and all of those miles. I’m sure she could tell you stories of fun and learning and the experiences they’ve had together. In 20 years, I’m sure each of these kids will look back at this trip as something that helped shape them in life.
Maybe it shouldn’t be about Mo’ne Davis.
For her teammates, friends, and others associated with this tour, it probably isn’t, which is good. But for the places they visit and when the people come out to see this group — it is about her.
And for that, this tour becomes bigger and gets the word out there even more, which in the end is the most important aspect of it all. This trip isn’t just about baseball and getting more eyes to what these kids are doing and experiencing is important, no matter how it happens.
See a photo gallery of the images I shot on my Flickr page.
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