Bandura takes in Rickwood Field visit with Giants prospects

June 21st, 2024
Cardinals and Giants Minor Leaguers were invited to visit Rickwood Field for the game honoring the Negro Leagues. (Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

For just about everyone in attendance at the game at Rickwood Field Thursday night, it was perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But for Giants prospect Scott Bandura, there was a familiarity about being at this old, historic ballpark that not many would understand.

Bandura, currently an outfielder with Single-A San Jose, was one of several players invited by the club to attend the history-making game between the Giants and Cardinals -- MLB at Rickwood: A Tribute to the Negro Leagues.

Both participating teams invited all of their Black Minor League players to make the journey to Birmingham, Ala., to watch the game. Between the two, 14 accepted -- 10 from the Giants, four from the Cardinals.

It would mark the second trip to this ballpark for Bandura, whose youth baseball team, the Anderson Monarchs, played at Rickwood Field in 2015 on a trip that was equal parts a civil rights educational trek through the South and a barnstorming tour that pitted them against youth baseball teams located in various cities that they visited.

“It’s kind of a full-circle moment,” Bandura said of his return to Rickwood. “I really appreciate the Giants for letting all of the Minor Leaguers be able to attend this and step away from our teams for a couple of days to be able to experience this.”

Along with Bandura, Giants prospects Reggie Crawford (Giants No. 8 prospect), Grant McCray (No. 13), Ben Madison, Josh Bostick (No. 28), Nadir Lewis, Elijah Pleasants, Donovan McIntyre, Bo Davidson, Michael Rodriguez made the trip out to Birmingham for the game.

“What a way to celebrate African-American history and baseball than having teams play at this field, in a predominantly Black city [and] opening up this field and having a MLB game,” said Lewis, also an outfielder for Single-A San Jose. “I think it’s just a cool experience. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Lewis also added that this week’s Rickwood game provided an opportunity for people to learn more about the historical significance of the field.

“I actually kind of did my own little deep dive trying to figure out exactly what was going on because I wasn’t super knowledgeable at the time,” he said about his reaction when the Rickwood game news was originally announced. “Which I feel like is good because a lot of people probably did that, and they probably got more in touch with what’s going on and what happened in the history of this field.”

Bandura had a little bit of a head start on this. As a 14-year-old, he met Henry Aaron on that barnstorming tour in 2015 -- the group stopped in Atlanta to visit Martin Luther King Jr.’s church and home, and met Hammerin’ Hank during a special visit to the Braves’ ballpark -- and he has a deep, extensive understanding of the history of the Negro Leagues and the timeline that led to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947.

“I already had an idea of how cool of an experience it would be,” he said of returning to Rickwood. “And now they’re wearing the Negro League uniforms tonight, and I think it could be the start of a really, really special tradition.”

To this day, Bandura, the Giants’ seventh-round pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, stays connected to Black history by paying tribute to the players that came before him. Bandura has a 42 tattoo, a nod to Robinson.

“Baseball has been able to take me to some really cool places, and that was even before the Draft and everything,” Bandura said. “So I just wanted to appreciate the history and everything that baseball has done for me. And that wouldn’t have been possible without the people that came before, [with] Jackie being a huge part of that.”

The former Princeton Tiger also touched on the historical feel that Rickwood has.

“It really felt like a time capsule almost,” Bandura said. “Like all of the advertisements on the outfield wall hadn’t changed, and even the stadium lights were the same ones that had been there forever. [It] felt like nothing had changed from the time that it was being used full-time.”

Bandura’s father, Steve, used an original Negro League bus to transport the Monarchs during that 2015 barnstorming tour. The bus, decorated in Birmingham Black Barons logos, was on display this week at Rickwood Field as a part of the festivities. While the bus has clear historical significance, it also holds a lot of personal memories for Bandura.

“My parents are down here with the bus and they’ve been hanging out and explaining the story of the bus to people who walk by… there’s definitely some nostalgia because I’ve spent so many hours and so many miles on that bus between the tours we went on,” he said. “It’s definitely really cool because it’s probably one of a very few number of those buses left. And the fact that we’re able to showcase it and show it off at this event makes it pretty special.”