KANSAS CITY -- Sharon Robinson walked past the entrance mural that includes a portrait of her father, Jackie Robinson, as a member of the Kansas City Monarchs. She moved on to the Don and Jean Wagner classroom, and she made subsequent stops at the athletic training room and the spacious
KANSAS CITY -- Sharon Robinson walked past the entrance mural that includes a portrait of her father, Jackie Robinson, as a member of the Kansas City Monarchs. She moved on to the Don and Jean Wagner classroom, and she made subsequent stops at the athletic training room and the spacious indoor baseball diamond, with its bright green turf.
It was all part of Robinson's guided tour around the Kansas City Royals MLB Urban Youth Academy on Friday morning, and the experience left the MLB educational programming consultant thoroughly impressed.
"It's beautiful," Robinson said. "The facility is gorgeous and has everything a boy or girl could want, everything a parent could want for their child."
For Robinson, who was in Kansas City as part of the yearlong celebration of the centennial of Jackie Robinson's birth, the only way the morning could have been better was if the facility had been filled with youngsters from Faxon Elementary School. Robinson had been scheduled to speak to those students, but treacherous road conditions in the Kansas City area forced a cancellation of the school's anticipated trip to the Academy.
Robinson was looking forward to meeting the elementary school students and helping them craft essays for a writing competition known as Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life. Breaking Barriers is a bilingual program highlighted by an essay contest that encourages students from the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico to describe how they have overcome personal barriers through the example of Jackie Robinson. The overall Breaking Barriers program provides a character-education curriculum for teachers to educate their classrooms about Jackie Robinson and the values he demonstrated throughout his life, particularly his journey in breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier.
The essay contest, founded by Sharon Robinson and administered by MLB and Scholastic, will reward the Grand Prize winners in each age group (grades 4-6 and 7-9) with trips to the 2019 MLB All-Star Game in Cleveland and the 2019 World Series, respectively.
Had Robinson been able to address the Faxon students, her message for constructing those essays would have been straightforward.
"The Breaking Barriers program is about teaching kids that obstacles or barriers are a part of life," Robinson said. "So, we're going to give you strategies that were helpful for my father on and off the field. And then, by writing it down, it allows you to see for yourself that there is a process and you will use that same process throughout your life.
"By writing it down, you see whatever steps you took to get over whatever barrier you are writing about at age 8. By age 50, you will still have to take yourself through those steps, too. It's building confidence. It's entering each of those obstacles confident that you can overcome them because you have done it before."
Robinson is scheduled to return to Kansas City in June when she will be honored by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and she hopes arrangements can be made for some interaction with Kansas City area youth at that time. Another element of Friday's cancelled program was the "Play Ball" event. Students would have been treated to a series of fun-focused and informal baseball and softball stations where they would have enjoyed Home Run Derby, baserunning games and more.
The "Play Ball" events have been designated for cities with a connection to Jackie Robinson's history and legacy. Besides Kansas City, where Robinson played for the Monarchs of the Negro Leagues in 1945, the "Play Ball" events will include Montreal (in March) and Pasadena, Calif. (in September). Robinson played for the Montreal Royals, a Brooklyn Dodgers' farm team. His family was raised in Pasadena.
The Royals' organization was happy to welcome Robinson to the Academy for a tour of a facility that club officials feel will continue to be a special part of the Kansas City community.
"This Academy is a platform to grow leaders and bridge the gap between the urban, suburban and rural parts of Kansas City," said Royals general manager Dayton Moore. "I believe Kansas City is and will continue to be a great example of what communities should be like and how people should work together. I think this is a major stepping stone in that direction."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com.