Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick walked up to the podium to speak about “the little game” that will change everything,
Standing underneath a large mural of baseball legend Buck O’Neil at the ball field that bears his name at 19th Street and the Paseo, Kendrick and city officials spoke Friday of showcasing the spirit of Kansas City when the world turns its eyes to the 83rd All-Star Game in July.
The gathering introduced a new “FanatiKC” campaign that includes a series of citywide events to celebrate the All-Star Game and the history of baseball in Kansas City, where the Negro National League formed in 1920.
“We’re going to energize this city. We’re going to show it off,” Mayor Sly James said. “We’re going to have one big party for a long time.”
In addition to James, community leaders, such as Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association president Rick Hughes, former Royals player and coach Frank White, and representatives from the Kansas City Zoo, Guadalupe Center and Zona Rosa, among others, came out for the event.
Hughes spoke of a two-prong effort by the city to welcome baseball fans of all ages to Kansas City and to showcase the city to the world. Next to him, city interns held posters of the new “We are FanatiKCs” graphics for billboards and signs that will soon be displayed throughout the city.
The campaign slogan pays tribute to Ted “Red” Sullivan, a Kansas City Cowboys baseball player in the 1880s who is credited with inventing the term “fan” to describe the enthusiasm of baseball followers in Missouri.
James stressed that city-sponsored events are meant to include more people in the excitement of the All-Star Game and the events that surround it. Free community watch parties will be held at five city locations during the game and the Grand Slam Fan Jam, a three-day celebration of local food, music and art, will be held at Barney Allis Plaza from July 6 to 8.
White, a coach of the Kansas City T-Bones, said that he hopes the world gets a taste of Kansas City’s baseball pride and that he knows fans will rise to the occasion.
“It’s like going to church on Sunday,” White said. “You want to put your best suit on and walk with your head up.”
As the event wrapped up, Kendrick challenged James and Hughes to a one-hit home run derby on the miniature ball field.
“I don’t want to put any pressure on you, Rick,” Kendrick called out as Hughes swung a wiffle bat over a kids’ tee. “But Buck is watching.”
Hughes smacked the ball into the back wall of the YMCA. He knows that in four weeks, so will the world.