By Jenn Bates
Every day I drive the same roads, drive past the same buildings, probably make some of the same drivers laugh at me while I’m laughing at a podcast. Every day on my drive home I see the billboard for the Picasso exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins and every day I say to myself ‘you need to go see that before it ends.’ Spoiler, I haven’t gone to see it…yet.
That’s what we do though, isn’t it? We live in a city full of opportunity, diversity, entertainment, but we stick to what we know and where we are comfortable. Part of that changed for me last Friday when I and a few other media members in Kansas City were given a chance to see the city in a different way.
I was picked up by the folks from Phillips 66 (sponsors of the Big 12 tournament) in a limo and after a few stops to pick up other media members we hit up a Phillips 66 gas station. The tour around the town was part of the ‘Live To the Full’ campaign from Phillips 66 with NFL Network reporter Stacey Dales as our celebrity guide. I got paired up with Stacey to help give people free gas and show off the Phillips 66 app (which if you haven’t downloaded it, do yourself a solid and test it out, it’s pretty cool).
After we gave away from free gas we headed over to the WWI memorial which again, is something that I’ve seen every day on my way to work and always thought ‘I need to go check that out.’ I’m really glad I finally did. If you’ve never been up there please go and take a camera with you. It gives you the single best view of the city (in my opinion) and it’s a beautiful memorial for those who fought in WWI. Also my buddy Mike works there and he’s a cool dude.
After a quick photo or two we all climbed back into the limo to head to our next spot. I am really truly ashamed that this was the first time I had been to the Negro Leagues Museum. I was a sports reporter for years in Wichita and never once made the time to get to this museum. If you find yourself saying ‘I really need to go’ or ‘I keep meaning to go, but’ erase that ‘but’ and get your butt over to 18th and Vine stat! If you can, grab the president Bob Kendrick and bend his ear for a minute because that man is an encyclopedia of baseball in general and especially Negro Leagues history. I loved this museum as a baseball fan and also as an American. It’s a travesty that what happened with the Negro Leagues and the accomplishments of the leagues aren’t more widely discussed in schools and general baseball history. Get Bob to tell you about the women who played on the teams, or Effa Manley who ran a team! Make sure you read up about how the first game with lights was a Negro Leagues game 5 years before MLB did it. Or about how they traveled with lights to be able to play double-headers on Sundays. Ask him how old Satchel Paige really was and then ask yourself Paige’s famous question: How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
I am making it a point to go back there and take the time needed to really learn about the history. I got Bob’s card, he should probably expect a call.
Finally, and what was really the point of the whole day, we met up with the Live to the Full Heroes for Phillips 66. The 3 winners of the program received $6,600 from Phillips 66 for ‘going above and beyond to help the basketball community.’
Ed Hubbard, Pat Clarke and Michele Clark are all truly exceptional people. There are those who talk about what they want and then you have the folks who are doing what needs to be done. Ed, Pat and Michelle are the latter.
In the middle you see Michele Clark. She helped organize the Kansas Grayhawkers, a ‘Granny Basketball’ team for women who are over 50. Michele grew up at a time when women’s sports were still very minimal so when she got the chance, she pounced and is making that opportunity available for all women who never had it! On the left in the red shirt is Ed Hubbard. His son was involved in an accident where he suffered a serious brain injury. Now, Ed has dedicated his life to making sure all kids, no matter their level of ability, get to play the game they love. Finally, Pat Clarke in the hat and red sweatshirt on the right. Pat used an experience from his own childhood to make sure that kids now not only have a place to pay ball, but also a place to build relationships and keep themselves out of trouble.
Here’s the thing I learned about this trip that day. When I finally opened my eyes and looked at what I was missing out on in Kansas City, I realized I wasn’t just missing a museum or an art exhibit or a restaurant: I was missing out on the people. People like Michele, Ed and Pat ARE Kansas City. They’re the ones helping give people a smile, an opportunity and they just happen to be doing it through sports. Bob at the Negro Leagues museum? HE is Kansas City. The kind women from SheKC (Brooke and Brooke), Deb from 435Mag (and her husband Trevor), Karly from KCLive (and her husband Brandon), that I shared the trip with: THEY are Kansas City.
It’s easy to insulate ourselves from what is new and uncomfortable but it’s when you reach out and explore what’s new and what’s different that you realize all a city has to offer. Thanks so much to Phillips 66 for giving me the opportunity to do that and for also giving Pat, Michele and Ed the chance to be recognized for their extremely deserving efforts. By the way, the Picasso exhibit is gone April 8th, and I feel like Saturday is going to be my day to finally do it.