The emotional roller coaster of Wednesday's trip was exhausting. Touring a city once named Bombingham, with a district known as Dynamite Hill was emotionally draining, and what little energy I had left was sapped by the furnace Birmingham had become…the heat index rose to 105.
Fortunately the game at Rickwood Field was the perfect baseball antidote for clearing your mind.
Thursday was, in some ways a carbon copy of Wednesday…a confrontation of civil rights brutality in yet another city, Montgomery, Alabama, and a ballgame at Riverwalk Stadium. Built out from a reconstruction-era train shed, the ballpark is home to the Tampa Rays AA affiliate Montgomery Biscuits, and on this night the Monarchs would be watching, not playing.
Troy University’s Rosa Parks Library and Museum stands on the site where Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat back on December 1, 1955. The Monarchs entered a bus shaped multi-media exhibit that documented the civil rights struggle in Montgomery.
Across town the bus pulled up in front of the Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Monarchs surrounded the circular black granite sculpture.
Etched like numbers on a clock are names of civil rights activists, many who were killed for their willingness to challenge the segregation and racism they endured. The relentless midday Alabama sun drew the kids to the running water. As they leaned in on the fountain that ran from the center of the black tabletop, the words of Dr. King paraphrasing the Bible, (Amos 5:24) could be seen over their shoulders: ...until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
Once inside the Library, The Monarchs posed around a sculpture of Rosa parks, which sat in the corner of an empty white room. The players gathered around for the mandatory group shot, but as the team dispersed, Myles Eaddy sat next to Rosa parks and threw his arm around her shoulder. Terrence Rainey joined him and the two had a quiet conversation then fist bumped Rosa Parks.
It wasn’t until later, when editing this take, that I found some pictures of Myles looking at a sculpted bust of Rosa Parks, taken just a few minutes earlier. Myles is mature way beyond his years, but he’s still just a kid…and I don’t think a young person can fabricate the look of admiration he had on his face. All for the simple fact that she had the courage to just say no.
Myles and his teammates also added their names to the Wall of Tolerance, a projected display of floating names of people who take a pledge to ‘stand against hate, and work for justice and tolerance.’
After a stop at a Boys and Girls club, and a quick stop at the hotel, we were Biscuit-bound.
Before Jared Sprague-Lott threw out the first pitch, the players mingled with the Biscuit players, including Philly suburb’s Tommy Coyle.
Baseball was again a break from reality needed to separate these dramatic experiences for a team of young teenagers. The Monarchs players went out with the players for the national anthem, and a flyover by the Civil Air Patrol with a Minor League twist.
I’d noticed Tamir Brooks eyeing my cameras, and yesterday he asked about taking pictures with one of them. I brought my game lenses to the stadium and Tamir got a baseball photography 101 lesson.
I was ready to pack it in for the night, and leave the kids alone…I clearly see they get tired of being photographed constantly. But Khai Hendricks, the precocious 2 year-old brother of Jahli, was entertaining our row. He too was fascinated by the cameras and he was soon posing and clowning for both myself and Tim, one of the videographers with the team.
The Monarchs are truly a family, and this extends beyond the confines of the uniformed team. Many families are here for this leg of the trip, and they are always together and enjoying the ride their kids are on…both literally and figuratively.
It’s a little bit of baseball nirvana…