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Royals honor youth-mentor program founder

KC man picked for Buck O'Neil Legacy Seat in World Series Game 1

KANSAS CITY -- There is one red seat in the sea of blue that is Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, home of the Royals. It is seat 9 in row C of section 127, and it belonged to Buck O'Neil.

The star of the Negro Leagues' Kansas City Monarchs became the first African-American coach in Major League Baseball when he was hired by the Cubs in 1962. Later, as a scout for the Royals and as a fan, he spent countless days and nights watching games from his seat behind home plate.

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To honor O'Neil, the Royals began the Buck O'Neil Legacy Seat program in 2007. Every night, they fill "Buck's Seat" with a special person who, on a large or small scale, represents O'Neil's spirit through work done in the community.

For Game 1 of the 2015 World Series, Henry Wash of Kansas City was in the red chair.

Wash, born and raised in Kansas City, grew up in an underserved community and was saddled with myriad issues, but he overcame those circumstances largely due to the mentoring he received throughout his life. He is particularly grateful for the guidance of Henry Bloch and Bill Dunn Jr., both affiliated with businesses founded in Kansas City.

Wash, 38, met both men through Metropolitan Community College and was one of the first graduates of the Henry W. Bloch scholarship program. Wash, who majored in sociology and minored in African-American studies, told Bloch he wasn't very smart but worked hard.

"Mr. Bloch told me he was the same way," Wash said. "He's my mentor and I love him. He's one of the guys I really lean on."

In an effort to provide the same kind of mentorship for other urban youth, Wash founded High Aspirations, a faith-based, proactive mentoring program for African-American males ages 8 to 18, in 2004. The mission of the program is to raise the aspirations of its participants and socially, emotionally, academically and spiritually improve their lives. The organization offers leadership, pre-collegiate and entrepreneurship programs, teaches personal and life skills and hosts a variety of activities, such as a chess club and an interorganizational Olympics each month, pitting mentors against program participants.

Wash hopes High Aspirations can continue to positively influence the lives of many young men in the Kansas City urban core, resulting in a stronger community. He was chosen out of more than 2,800 nominations for the Buck O'Neil Seat. Wash is unsure who actually nominated him and was stunned when he got the call from the Royals last Thursday.

"I've been a Royals fan my whole life and I would not have been able to come to a game if not for this because financially, I could have not supported it," said Wash, who attended the game with his wife, Trina, and three boys from High Aspirations. "I'm so happy to be here tonight and be able to soak it all in."

Lindsay Berra is a reporter for
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