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Breakthrough Series visits Negro Leagues Museum

May 25, 2019

KANSAS CITY -- One of the highlights of this year's Breakthrough Series was a field trip to the Negro Leagues Museum, a must-see exhibit for any baseball fan or history buff. The Breakthrough Series participants on Saturday were given a special tour of the museum, which tells the story of

KANSAS CITY -- One of the highlights of this year's Breakthrough Series was a field trip to the Negro Leagues Museum, a must-see exhibit for any baseball fan or history buff.

The Breakthrough Series participants on Saturday were given a special tour of the museum, which tells the story of 40 years of Negro Leagues baseball.

“I learned that if there is something that you’re really passionate about and you really love it and it makes you the happiest, you shouldn’t let anything stop you,” Breakthrough Series participant Tamsen Henry said.

After Jackie Robinson broke MLB's color barrier in 1947, the Negro Leagues continued for another 13 years until every big league club had at least one black player.

“This story is about passion. That is at the foundation, passion and belief in self,” said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Museum. “This is a story that can only be told in America.”

Upon entering the museum, the softball players encountered “The Field of Legends,” a baseball field with bronze statues of the greatest players represented by 10 of the first group of Negro League players to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Also represented is a depiction of the late John “Buck” O’Neil, who played for Kansas City and missed induction into the Hall of Fame by one vote in 2006.

The Field of Legends is the focal point of the museum designed around the diamond, created to represent segregation.

“We want the visitors to know what it feels like to be so close but yet still far away,” Kendrick said. “So you view the field through chicken coop wire, the same wire that separated the black fans from the white fans.”

Visitors are not able to enter the field at first, because they first must absorb the history made by black players who contributed to the game. After the journey is complete, tourists reach the symbolic field.

“All of these amazing athletes had so much adversity towards them and they went out and just played the game because they loved it,” Henry said.

While the museum pays tribute to baseball greats such as Robinson, it also highlights great talents like Satchel Paige, one of the greatest pitchers to take the mound. Paige became the oldest rookie in MLB at 42 years old in 1949, when he led the Indians to their first World Series win.

Paige, who played more than 2,600 games and only suffered one arm injury, was said to throw a fastball more than 100 mph with pinpoint control.

“Blacks in the deep south never really knew how old they were, and their birth certificates were kept in a bible,” Kendrick said. “Satchel Paige claimed a goat ate the page of the bible with his birth certificate, so we don’t know exactly how old he really was.”

The Negro Leagues did not discriminate against gender or race. Few realize that women played in this league, too. Kendrick informed the Breakthrough Series players that the Indianapolis Clowns were the first team to have three women on the team, a message that resonated with the group.

“I learned that no matter what you experience on and off the field, it’s important to remember why you play and what you play for, it’s the bigger picture,” Breakthrough Series participant Raye Thomas said.

The Negro League players feared that once the last members of the league died, the league's history would die with them. The museum is here to ensure that their story is always told and to inspire young athletes.

“I really like how it was more about the passion of the game, not really about the segregation that they experienced but what came from it,” Thomas said. “How it turned into a really positive thing, I thought that was inspiring.”

Kennedy Bright is a contributor to MLB.com.