KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A woman whose famous family knows firsthand what it takes to break barriers stopped in Kansas City Friday as part of a tour to encourage children to face challenges in their lives.
Sharon Robinson is the daughter of Jackie Robinson, the first African American player to break Major League Baseball’s color line. She now works with MLB as an educational consultant for the league’s Breaking Barriers program.
Robinson's visit to Kansas City was a stop in a Black History Month tour highlighting what would have been her father’s 100th birthday (Jackie Robinson would have turned 100 on Jan. 31).
MLB launched the Breaking Barriers program 23 years ago to honor how Jackie Robinson overcame obstacles to become a major leagues player. The program includes a curriculum for students in grades four through nine and an essay contest where winners receive a trip to the All-Star Game and World Series.
“We're hoping we're building confidence in children, so they know they can overcome obstacles in their life and that's really the goal of it,” Sharon Robinson said.
During her visit in Kansas City, Robinson planned to speak with students about the program, but winter weather forced schools to close. Nonetheless, she visited the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy on Friday.
Her father had also spent time in Kansas City. In 1945, Jackie Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs in baseball’s Negro Leagues. Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, sent scouts to Kansas City and other Negro League destinations to evaluate players. Eventually, Rickey made Robinson an offer to join a minor league team, paving the way for his eventual rise to the major leagues.
“He talked about not thinking he'd get the opportunity to move forward in his lifetime,” Sharon Robinson said of how her father spoke about his time in Kansas City. “That's why he didn't believe it when Branch Rickey sent a scout out and said, ‘We're scouting you.'”
In 2016, the Kansas City Royals opened the Urban Youth Academy . The indoor/outdoor complex uses baseball and softball to inspire children. Students come to the academy after school or with their teams. They learn not only how to play the game of baseball, but also about careers in other areas of the sport, such as athletic training or broadcasting.