A coach’s early recognition of talent pushed Mo’ne Davis and Taney Dragons to success

    Mo’ne Davis, the flame-throwing city kid with the sheepish smile, is the “it girl” of summer 2014.

    And who better?

    Mo’ne throws a baseball at 70 miles per hour. She never fails to say nice things about her teammates. And get this: Following the gem of a game she pitched that got her Taney Dragons team to the Little League World Series, she looked into the camera and said, “This is for Philadelphia.”

    Swoon.

    Baseball provides lessons for life

    Earlier this week, Mo’ne Davis’ mom was being interviewed on TV.

    “When did you discover Mo’ne’s talent?” the TV reporter asked. “When did you know?”

    “I never knew,” Mo’ne’s mom said. “The man who saw Mo’ne’s talent was Steve Bandura. He was the one who saw it.”

    Steve Bandura is the coach of the Anderson Monarchs. The Monarchs play on a beautifully maintained diamond behind the Marian Anderson Recreation Center at 18th and Fitzwater, just a few blocks from our founding Mighty Writers center in South Philadelphia.

    Seven of Bandura’s former Monarchs — including Mo’ne, and Bandura’s son, Scott — play for the Taney Dragons. All seven learned to play the game as Monarchs before aging out and becoming Dragons.

    Bandura sees baseball as a metaphor for life. Learn the fundamentals. Know and honor those who came before you. Respect your opponents. Work harder than the next guy.

    Above all, think.

    “We like to believe we’re playing chess out there while the other team is playing checkers,” he says of his players, amused at the notion.

    Dragons’ success depends on coaches, parents, kids

    A couple of summers back, Bandura took his Monarchs on a trip around the country to visit iconic baseball landmarks. The Monarchs traveled on a 1947 bus with no air conditioning so the kids would get a feel for what conditions were like for the ballplayers who played in the old Negro Leagues. Among the Monarchs’ first stops was Jackie Robinson’s gravesite.

    Bandura clearly takes coaching baseball to a whole other level.

    A lot of people deserve credit for the success of the Taney Dragons this summer: the Taney coaches, the parents, the kids themselves. There is inspiration around this team everywhere you look.

    But for at least seven of the Taney Dragons — Mo’ne included — Steve Bandura is right at the top of the list.

    Cool thing is, they won’t need to be reminded of that.

    This was reprinted from Mighty Writers with permission. Tim Whitaker is the executive director of the non-profit organization whose mission is to teach kids how to think and write clearly.

    Whitaker encourages readers to pass this article on to “to anyone who believes in the power of writing and cares about the future of kids who live and go to school in Philadelphia.”

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