So, the family and I are in Kansas City this weekend for the Show Me National Qualifiers volleyball tournament. It was the first road trip in our new Tesla Model Y, but that's not the point of this post. Far from it.
The scheduling the first few days of the tournament allowed for a fair amount of time to explore Kansas City before it was time to suit up and play some volleyball - my daughter Fiona that is. Yesterday morning, after grabbing a quick bite to eat at the hotel, we made the short drive to the historic 18th & Vine district, Kansas City's music district. We'll go back to visit the American Jazz Museum, but our goal this trip was to visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
What inspired the visit? My son Nathan was doing a research paper and presentation on Jackie Robinson a few weeks ago and I was giving him some tips on where to find authentic research and information. I told him to start with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum website as it would have good information and link off to other good sources. For some reason, Securly blocked his search. My best guess was the term "negro" was flagged. I've since connected with the Securly support and the school's IT department and the NLBM is no longer blocked. Now that we have that out of the way ...
As Nathan did more research on Jackie Robinson and read a little more about the history of the Negro Leagues, he became pretty inspired by the history. As any empathetic child would do, he asked questions about why Major League Baseball was all white before Jackie joined the Dodgers. It led to some tough but valuable conversations about the civil rights movement and how we still have a ways to go as a society to truly enable equal and equitable treatment of all people, regardless of gender, color, creed, sexual orientation, or any of the characteristics that makes each of us unique.
Then MLB the Show 23 launched a few weeks ago and with it a new game mode: Storylines: The Negro Leagues Season 1. I finally booted it up last week and was immediately hooked. I stayed up until about 2:00 a.m. so I could finish the Satchel Paige missions. As much as I enjoy the game play of The Show, it's the introductions to each mission given by the NLBM President Bob Kendrick, that made me want to watch them all as a docuseries. The stories are captivating. Bob Kendrick is a masterful storyteller.
The next day while the kids were in school, I downloaded The Show 23 in the play/study room. After Nathan was done with homework and about to settle in to a little screen time, I told him to check out the The Show 23. He went through the tutorial the game starts with and then I had him start the storylines mode. He scrolled through the available storylines and instantly chose Jackie Robinson. Our youngest, Owen, joined him to watch and learn as well. The game mode is so well done and the stories told with such enthusiasm and grace, I can't wait to play through them all and then re-watch the stories again.
Back to this weekend. Thanks to a research paper and a video game, The NLBM was at the top of my list of places to visit in KC if we had the time. If I were to sum it up in just a few words, I can't wait to go back and spend even more time there. There are so many article clippings to read, videos to watch, audio to listen to in expertly curated spaces with bronze statues, original stadium seats, jerseys, bats, signed baseballs, and digital displays. It almost overwhelms the senses, in the very best of ways.
We spent a good 90 minutes at the NLBM, but could've easily spent the day. I already have a list of books I plan to purchase to read up on more of the history. I've always been fascinated by the legend of Satchel Paige, but it wasn't until recently that I learned that Hilton Smith might have been the best pitcher on a KC Monarchs team that included Satchel Paige, the best pitcher of his day, and perhaps all time? All we can do is speculate at this point, but there's no denying the history and the words of MLB Hall of Famers like Stan Musial and the praise they heap on their Negro League contemporaries and the praise they shared about each other after barnstorming events. Those games had to have been a sight to behold.
I'll probably share a little more about this soon, but wanted to capture at least some of the experience while it was fresh on my mind.
TLDR: Do yourself a favor and visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. It's as thoughtfully crafted of an experience as you will find and does an amazing job of capturing the story of the Negro Leagues and what ultimately propelled the Civil Rights Movement forward.