KANSAS CITY, Mo. — More than a year ago, a Kansas City-area youth baseball team for 12 years old, which historically has been called the Tigers, sent in their bid to play in the iconic tournament at Cooperstown Dreams Park in conjunction with the annual National Baseball Hall of Fame induction.
That was before Kansas City's most-famous baseball legend, Buck O'Neil, was voted in as part of the 2022 Hall of Fame class.
Bbut O'Neil's sparked the idea of changing the team's name to honor O'Neil, a former first baseman and manager with Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League.
"It was kind of a no-brainer," Steve Renz, a father of one of the team's players, said. "We realized the tie in with Buck, with Kansas City."
After a quick call to the officials at Cooperstown Dreams Park, "We actually changed our name to the KC Monarchs in respect to Buck," fellow dad, Brett Schoenfeld, said. "It's a great chance to teach the boys about the history of the Negro Leagues in Kansas City."
The Monarchs' uniforms now sport the iconic logo and help keep a huge piece of Kansas City baseball history alive.
"We are making a meaningful and relevant connection," Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick said. "They're going to be wearing Monarchs uniforms and they're going to have the pants legs up high like they did in the Negro Leagues and they're going to walk in this hallowed space and I hope feel the spirit of Satchel Paige and Buck O'Neil."
On a tour of the museum in the Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District just days before their departure for New York, the Monarchs players got to learn about the men who played for the team they will represent on the diamond.
What stood out? "What they went through to get here," Oliver Jones said.
The tour with museum curator Ray Doswell was an eye-opening learning experience for players, including Chip Renz, who didn't know much about Negro Leagues history before the event.
"I knew Buck O'Neil and Jackie Robinson were on the Monarchs but, not really (much else) before this," Chip Renz said. "I feel like the craziest thing was the amount of fans that showed up to watch Satchel Paige and all the things that he did and all the pitches that he could throw and all that."
Chip's father, Steve, hopes the introduction to baseball history will spark more desire to learn about the game's past.
"I hope that this kind of generates a little interest for him to do more digging into some of the history," Steve Renz said. "There's a lot of opportunities for him to learn more. This museum hopefully is a kick off to that."
For everyone involved, there was an appreciation to be able to soak up the kismet opportunity that O'Neil has brought to the KC community.
"I think it's magnificent that they're going to be embodying the spirit of the Negro Leagues and taking it to Cooperstown," Kendrick said with a laugh. "Even more poetic, at the same time that Buck O'Neil is being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I don't know if you can script it any better."
The Monarchs take the field at Cooperstown Dreams Park at 5 p.m. on Saturday — and surely O'Neil, who will be inducted in the Hall of Fame on Sunday, will be smiling somewhere.