When fans visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, at 18th and Vine in the Kansas City Jazz District, they often thank museum president Bob Kendrick, who is often on hand to give guided tours.
But Kendrick turned the tables Friday morning at the museum as he lavished praise on William Chrisman High School boys basketball coach Jake Kates, who arranged for the teams from the Second Annual Phog Allen Classic to make the trip downtown for a history lesson.
“Coach Kates went the extra mile, and I cannot thank him enough for arranging to bring the tournament teams down here for a visit,” said Kendrick, who addressed each of the teams before their tour.
“This is an experience we hope visitors will carry on to their friends and classmates, much like we hope one generation will carry over to another generation.”
“When I get to visit with our guests, especially young people, I just get so excited to talk about the love of the game that made the Negro Leagues so special. It never gets old – never.”
Before members of the Truman High School and Chrisman basketball teams (who played in Saturday’s championship game, please see page 1B) toured the museum, they watched a video about the history of the Negro Leagues that brought Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige and “Cool Papa” Bell to life.
“I have an old soul, and I’m an old-school guy, so this is so special,” Chrisman guard Alex Calhoun said. “I think just about everyone has heard of Jackie Robinson and how he broke the baseball color line, but I wasn’t aware of many of the other Negro League players.”
After the tour, Calhoun and teammates checked out books in the museum’s gift shop.
“I want to find out all I can about the Negro Leagues and its players,” Calhoun added. “I’m so happy Coach Kates arranged for us to come down here.”
No player from Truman or Chrisman had ever visited the museum, which caught Kates off guard a bit.
“Really?” Kates asked. “This is a dream come true for me. To have our teams come down, to experience this gem of Kansas City and to see the roads the Negro League players paved for some of our athletes is the reason I wanted to come down.”
“And it’s just so cool to see the players’ reactions to everything they have down here.”
Truman forward Kaimen Lennox was in awe of what he saw.
“This is a hidden gem that I wasn’t aware of,” Lennox said. “Everyone is just in awe of what we’re seeing. And for the players from Truman and Chrisman to come down here together, when we’re friendly rivals, makes it even better.”
“None of us will ever forget this trip.”