Jim Gardner One-on-One with Steve Bandura

SOUTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Every day you will find Steve Bandura at the Anderson Rec Center at 17th and Fitzwater streets in South Philadelphia.

He's got four travel baseball teams starting with age 8 - children, who if they weren't here, might be getting into trouble.

His 13 and under team includes seven members of last summer's Taney Dragons, including his own son Scott and Mo'ne Davis.

That group left Wednesday night on a three week, 20 city barnstorming tour called, 'A Tribute to the Civil Rights Movement.'

"We're going through Atlanta, Birmingham, Selma, Jackson, Little Rock, Memphis and up through a bunch of other cities as well," said Bandura.

Every Friday night, Bandura gathers the team together, not to practice baseball, but to learn about their heritage and to prepare them for what begins Thursday.

"We've been getting together every Friday night for the past six months studying the Civil Rights Movement. I just thought it was important with what's going on in Ferguson and Baltimore this year," said Bandura.

This was the same group that three years ago, spent three weeks barnstorming across America, learning about and celebrating the Old Negro Leagues.

It was also a tribute to Jackie Robinson, 65 years after he broke baseball's color barrier.

This is obviously more than just baseball and Bandura is more than just a coach.

"I'm tough on these guys. I was very tough on them in the beginning and I really set the bar high for them and expected a lot. I expected them to act older than they were because like it or not, fair or unfair, they are under the microscope. They are the only black team anywhere we go and play. They represent more than just themselves here and the team," he said.

The 54-year-old Bandura used to sell office equipment, but he gave up his shirt and tie for this in 1996.

How does he assess the impact he's had since then?

"I see the older guys I had before and they've graduated from college. They're really good dads, they have their own kids and they're good dads. To me that's enough. We've lost a few kids to violence. Those three banners in the corner are a memorial to those guys," said Bandura.

Is he proud of what he's done?

"I'm very proud. I'm proud of what these kids have accomplished. I'm proud to know that I gave them the opportunity to accomplish that but in the end the accomplishments are theirs," said Bandura.
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