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'As American as apple pie and baseball:' Community starts effort to renovate Satchel Paige stadium

Posted at 5:58 PM, May 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-06 20:52:51-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Community activist Pat Clarke is trying to get more eyes on the Satchel Paige Memorial Stadium at 51st Street and Indiana Avenue.

"Man, I hit one over those trees right there up on Swope Parkway, really," Clarke said Monday.

The stadium is one of his passions because he has memories there. Those memories turned into a mission to foster and support youth sports programs.

"You can't find a good baseball game in the middle of the street now," Clarke said. "Our kids don't play like they used to, but the ones that do, they deserve a place to play."

Clarke started a committee to help renovate the stadium

One section is missing bleachers and the steps are crumbling. A fresh coat of paint wouldn't hurt either.

The place just needs some TLC, with exception of the field, which was renovated in 2012 as part of the MLB All-Star Legacy funding project in 2012.

The most concerning part of the state of the stadium's disrepair is the erosion of a retaining wall and sidewalk in the back. The city manager's office is funding the repairs. Clarke worries if the stadium infrastructure is not fixed too, it'll get worse.

The neighborhood effort has caught the eye of Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

"It's just a great old ballpark and it happens to bear the name of one of the greatest baseball players not in Negro Leagues history, but in baseball history, so there's always a concern," Kendrick said. "We want it to be representative of the magnitude of the man which it's named for."

Kendrick says there's a renewed effort to get inner city kids back into the game of baseball, which for a long time was much more than a sport to the black community.

"Community baseball used to be the way in which kids could play the game that they didn't have to worry about the cost," Kendrick said.

The KC Urban Youth Academy baseball facilities received a lot of attention when the Royals and Major League Baseball announced they'd pay for it and build it in Parade Park. The Negro Leagues museum was a big supporter of that project, for the same reasons Kendrick says he supports smaller stadiums like Satchel Paige.

"It's really important for us, as urban kids are being reintroduced to our sport, that number one, they can come here and see people who look just like them who played the sport as well as anyone ever played the game, and hopefully it serves as a motivation for them to want to stay in this game," Kendrick said.

Clarke started a Hoops at Night basketball league. The kids he works with mostly take interest in basketball and football, but Clarke says any sport helps kids stay off the streets and stay productive.

"Our kids don't have any place to go. Where do they end up? On the Plaza," Clarke said, referring to recent incidents of teenagers starting disruptions and fights at the Country Club Plaza and Worlds of Fun on weekend nights.

That's why Satchel Paige renovations and creating community interest is so important to Clarke. The stadium is a landmark in the community.

That saying, "As American as baseball and apple pie" comes to mind.

"This is it, you know. We just want to let the city know that we're going to do the best we can to keep what we have," Clarke said.

Clarke wants to raise a few million dollars. He's asking the city, the Royals and anyone to help out.