Anderson Monarchs' tour filled with history lessons, poignant meetings for 14-year-old
By Alyson Footer
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- It's somewhat fitting that Mo'ne Davis is spending her 14th birthday in the public spotlight, a space she's somewhat used to occupying after she catapulted to fame with her unforgettable performance in the Little League World Series last year.
And Davis celebrating her birthday is a good reminder about how old -- or more accurately, how young -- she is.
What makes Davis stand out among a lot of other 14-year-olds, of course, is that she has had more experience dealing with lights, cameras and reporters than most of us will come across in our lifetimes.
Although she's nearly 1,000 miles away from her home in New Jersey, Davis creates quite a stir when recognized -- mostly by youngsters -- as she walks around the streets and neighborhoods as part of the 21-day, 19-city civil rights barnstorming tour she's on with the Anderson Monarchs.
"It's actually kind of crazy," Davis said. "I felt like down here it wouldn't be as super hyped. But it's still pretty hyped."
Even if she wasn't famous, Davis and her teammates would stand out in a crowd, anyway. The kids were in full Monarchs uniforms on Tuesday as they toured the MLK historical site and National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.
So even if people didn't know exactly who the Monarchs were, their uniformed attire -- and the fact that they're traveling by a 1947 bus modeled after what Negro Leagues used to use as transportation, with their name splashed across the side and back -- gave them away.
The Monarchs are touring via an authentic 1947 Flxible Clipper bus. (MLB.com)
Parents and little kids first see Davis and have that "Is that who I think it is?" look. And then come the polite shouts of recognition and admiration.
Even though Davis is getting used to this in some ways, does it still startle her?
"Kind of," she said, with a chuckle.
Davis has been chronicling her experiences in a journal, which she writes in during the long bus trips from city to city. The entire group -- which consists of 14 kids, several coaches and a few parents -- will cover thousands of miles before the trip comes to an end back in the Northeast in another couple of weeks.
This week in particular has been the most poignant, as the kids have received a lifetime's worth of history lessons in just a couple of days. From touring Martin Luther King Jr.'s childhood home to the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, site of the 1963 bombing that killed four young girls and injured 22 churchgoers, the journey has been educational and emotional.
Davis said one of her favorite moments was meeting Rep. John Lewis, the longtime Georgia congressman who in 1963 was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the civil rights movement and who was an outspoken proponent of equal rights as a teenager, during their visit to Washington, D.C.
"In school, we learned a lot about civil rights," Davis said. "Just from watching all of the documentaries and movies, it made me want to meet him even more. Just how brave he was as a 17-year-old in that time period, and how much he accomplished. I just wanted to meet him and just get a better understanding."
The group's brief stop at a Freedom Riders landmark in Anniston, Ala., also left an impact on Davis.
"I couldn't picture that as a bus stop," Davis said. "Then I realized they only stopped to change their tires. They had a mob following them -- it was kind of scary. It didn't happen that long ago. I just feel bad for all the people that had to go through that. Hopefully there is a better understanding now and we don't make those mistakes in the future."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.