The Early Days of Mo’ne Davis

Of all my blogs the last one on Mo’ne Davis has been the most popular. This got me to ask the following question: Where did the legend of Mo’ne begin? According to Steve Bandura, the coach of the Anderson Monarchs youth baseball traveling team, he was working on the baseball field when he spotted a 7-year-old Mo’ne Davis throwing a football. Each throw resulted in a perfect spiral. She was playing tackle football fearlessly with some neighborhood boys. Bandura was so impressed he asked her to come to a boys’ basketball practice. She actually came to the practice! The boys were running complicated drills that he thought she would be unable to do. Remember, she was only 7 and never played basketball before. To his surprise she asked to be part of the drills and did the drills as well as any of the boys. He said, “That was when I knew. You could tell she had athleticism, but that analytic skill, you just can’t teach that.”

That same year she started pitching for Bandura’s baseball team, the Anderson Monarchs. When I coached 7 and 8 year-olds, every child was given the opportunity to play every position. Pitching was the most important position. You looked for the child who could throw strikes. If you could consistently throw strikes you were a pitcher, regardless of how fast you threw the ball. Mo’ne had the knack of throwing strikes. Mo’ne the pitcher was born at the age of 7.

In 2012, at the age of 11 Mo’ne and her  11-year-old African American baseball team, as a tribute to Jackie Robinson, boarded an authentic 1947 touring bus to embark on a 22-day, 4000-mile journey barnstorming their way across the country. The bus had no air conditioning and there were no electronic games. The guys passed the time with card games and conversation. The tour played several games against local youth teams, met surviving players from the Negro Leagues, visited such special places such as Jackie Robinson’s gravesite, Williamsport, PA (home of the LLWS), the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, and the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

In Washington, D.C. Mo’ne met up with Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, one of only three females to play in the Negro Leagues but the only one that was a pitcher. Johnson pitched for the Indianapolis Clowns from 1953 to 1955 compiling a 33-8 record. In fact, Mamie was a teammate of a young Hank Aaron. After watching Mo’ne pitch, Johnson said, “That’s me when I was her age – the size, the way she throws, everything.” After playing a game there, the team visited the Lincoln Memorial and stood where Marian Anderson, the namesake of their team, performed her historical concert on Easter Sunday in 1939.

As she got older Mo’ne’s pitching skills improved dramatically. By the time she reached 13, she developed a curve ball and a changeup to go along with a 70 mph fastball. “From the beginning, she had good control,” Bandura said. “She has incredible spatial awareness, or kinesthetic awareness — whatever you want to call it. If she’s doing something wrong, she knows how to fix it. Because of that, she always throws strikes.” In describing how good of a pitcher she is Bandura said, “At this age, she’s the best pitcher I’ve ever had. I’ve had pitchers that are now in the minor leagues, but at this age, no one’s had the control to go with the velocity that she has and the command.”

Bandura doesn’t coach the Taney Dragons (his son Scott is the catcher for Taney). Mo’ne is very well-rounded. She is an honor student at one of the best private schools. She also excels in basketball and soccer. In fact she acknowledges that basketball is her favorite sport.

All eyes including mine will be on Mo’ne Wed. night when she pitches against Las Vegas.

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