Remember His Name...
All these years later, I remember their names.
Mr. Brown, Mr. Kesack , Paul Koba (he was too young to call Mr.), Mr. Skrzat, Mr. Biedler, Mr. Grunklee, Mr. Landers, Mr. Hoffman, Mr. Hostelley, Mr. Bennett, Mr. Socias, Mr. Lordan, Tom Beck, Bob Weber.
My baseball coaches are etched in my mind. Every word of encouragement, every nugget of information, every opportunity, every slight, perceived or real….they all simmer in my unconscious.
I remember the first team I managed, the 2006 Lenape Valley AA Mariners. Seven and eight year-olds I realized could be referring to me 45 years later, remembering….what?
A word of encouragement, a nugget of information, an opportunity, a slight, perceived or real….?
It wasn't until I had raked hours of mud to get a game in, or dragged my lawnmower out to a field at lunch to cut the grass for an evening practice, that I realized these men had once done the same for me. These dads, volunteering their time, (even the ones that were paid could not possibly have received appropriate pay for the time they put in) had made it possible for me, and countless others, to play baseball.
Steve Bandura sits at the back of the bus; day 21 of a 24 day barnstorming tour lines his sunburned face. Exhaustion, with a glow of accomplishment. His players shuffle from the bus, a nine hour round-trip to Fenway Park freshly burnt into their memory. Right about the time the team stood arced around the pitching mound, as their star pitcher Mo’ne Davis fired a ‘first pitch’ strike to Dustin Padroia, the NBC Nightly News aired a segment about the Anderson Monarchs, his baseball program out of South Philly. It was a glowing tribute to the coach that dragged his players around the country in a 58 year-old, un-airconditioned bus; no cell phones allowed.
Opportunity. That is what Steve Bandura’s business is. He conjures opportunity and creates options for his players to carry in their back pockets as they venture out…when the Monarchs leave the cocoon of Marian Anderson Rec Center and spread their wings in the real world, they will bear etchings in their souls of the passion, sweat and drive of one man, Steve Bandura. The other coaches, John Bromley, Chuck Jackson, Alex Rice implement the plan, but the vision is Bandura's. The strain, the weight of the program is Bandura's.
Maybe a Monarch will become "somebody." A successful athlete, a businessman with money, a politician with ideas…maybe they will run a rec center, or simply volunteer their time to coach a team…and pass on a word of encouragement, a nugget of information, an opportunity. The Monarchs are prepared not so much to field a grounder cleanly or regurgitate civil rights history. They are being prepared to make a difference in the world. To do things like, live their life, the right way. The Monarch way.
He, or she, will never forget Mr. Bandura, and others that will never know him, will benefit from his plan.
Jeez. All that, and he gets to spend summers with his son.