Anderson Monarchs: Jackie Robinson Barnstorming Tour
Nearly two weeks ago, the Philadelphia-based Anderson Monarchs began a 4,000-mile adventure across the country in honor of Jackie Robinson.
Hopping on a bus from the 1940s, this particular little league team is eager to visit 18 cities in 21 days. The Monarchs will compete against a local baseball team in each city on the tour, traveling across the country like the Negro Leagues once did.
Tour designer Steve Bandura and the Monarchs visited Progressive Field on Tuesday, July 3, and had the opportunity to interact with several Indians players before that night’s game.
“Tonight, we’re staying in a really nice hotel for about six hours, then we’ll be gone,” Bandura, whose team is 2-0 thus far, said.
Indians pitcher Justin Masterson greeted the Monarchs in the Indians dugout and immediately challenged all of them to race him to the wall in centerfield.
Outrun by all of the Monarchs, Masterson and Indians pitchers Josh Tomlin, Tony Sipp, and Joe Smith led the team in stretching.
“Nobody was expecting that. I just think it’s great. You can’t beat that; they’re out there stretching with them in centerfield,” Bandura said. “I’m sure they get a lot of requests all the time. I think this moment [in the outfield] is going to stand out more than any of them. This one is off the charts.”
The team then raced to home plate and mimicked their idols’ batting stances, pretending to hit home run after home run off of Justin Masterson.
“It’s a whole new world for them. It’s pretty amazing,” Bandura said. “MLB has been just really, really great with the kids. They have been creating some life-long memories for these guys.”
Each member of the Monarchs received a baseball and had the chance to spend time chatting with Indians players prior to the game.
Sipp said that it is possible to achieve any goal with such positive team chemistry.
“You can see that they really care about each other,” he said. “When we were giving out baseballs, they all made sure the other ones had a baseball. This is building the team camaraderie and seeing how far you can go with the team.
“[You learn] how team camaraderie can help you achieve different things. They didn’t think that they’d be here right now, but they’re blending together.”
Bandura, who has visited Yankee Stadium and Progressive Field thus far with the Monarchs, said the team treasures every moment spent with their role models.
“The players we’ve met have been outstanding — I mean, tremendous role models for the kids. [They] meet a guy like [Yankees outfielder] Curtis Granderson, and they immediately get back and want to go on my computer and look him up,” Bandura said. “Really, the players have been great role models and have shown these kids a whole different world that normally they wouldn’t see. It’s really eye-opening.”
-Megan Golden, TribeVibe contributor