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Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

Tyler Kelaher

Go to http://buytickets.at/homestand/r/pitch to buy your tickets to see Blue Jays GM, Ross Atkins, and Bob Kendrick live at Pitch Talks on February 1st! 

Two of Bob Kendrick's big loves in life are philanthropy and golf.

But as much as he loves them, nothing compares with his passion for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

For the last 15 years, the sharply dressed Georgia native has devoted his life to promoting the legacy of leagues that existed only because black players were barred from playing major league baseball. He's been an integral cog in the development of the world's only museum dedicated to celebrating the history and advancement of the Negro Leagues in America.

Bob grew up playing any in-season sport. Because of his school’s small student body, basketball and track were its only teams. When reminiscing about his varsity days, he told me, “I didn’t want to do any kind of running that didn’t involve a ball, so I went with basketball.” I immediately realized we share the same philosophy.

Bob moved to Parkville, Missouri in the mid-80s to attend Park University (Park College at the time) on a basketball scholarship. After studying communication arts with aspirations to become a sports journalist, Kendrick was hired by the Kansas City Star newspaper as a member of their promotions department.

In 1993, Bob was assigned to promote the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s first travelling exhibition, a popular collaborative display of the history of the Negro Baseball Leagues that the museum still hosts to this day. In the span of a month, roughly 10,000 people travelled to Kansas City to see the exhibit and absorb everything it had to offer. The wave of public interest sparked the lightbulb in Bob’s head.  “We knew we had something special”.

Bob joined the museum’s board of directors as a volunteer to build its brand through public relations and marketing. By 1998, he became the organization’s first Director of Marketing.

As Bob’s role with the museum grew, so did his relationship with the late, great John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil. Buck served as a trailblazer in the Negro Leagues community, boasting a well-respected playing career, as well as becoming a major league scout for the Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals. In 1962, Mr. O’Neil was named to the Cubs coaching staff, becoming the first black coach in the major leagues. Buck was the architect and long-time chairman of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum until his passing in 2006. “There would not have been a Negro Leagues Baseball Museum without Buck O’Neil,” said Kendrick. “He was the driving force and the heart and soul…He gave it everything he had.” In 2008, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and museum honoured Mr. O’Neil’s legacy with the creation of the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award. Buck O’Neil’s eight decades of baseball contributions serve as Bob’s inspiration to this very day.

Bob was named President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in April of 2011 and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The community rallied around the museum’s celebration of Buck O’Neil’s centennial birthday that November. Kansas City’s baseball culture was in full-swing when it hosted the MLB All-Star game in 2012, allowing Kendrick to parlay the city’s excitement into the museum’s success.

In 2013, the museum held the second largest red carpet event for the blockbuster film “42”, outside of Los Angeles, welcoming cast members: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford and Andre Holland to celebrate the life and career of Jackie Robinson.

Success reached an all-time high in 2015 when the Royals won their first World Series in 30-years, flooding the streets of Kansas City in championship celebrations.

Last year, Executive Director of the MLBPA, Tony Clark, and MLB Commissioner, Rob Manfred, met in Kansas City to donate $1 million to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The donation served as a platform for the organization to excel for years to come.

Kendrick’s motivation to grow the name of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum has brought him to Toronto for Homestand’s first Pitch Talks event of the year on February 1st. Join us at Rivoli to listen to Mr. Kendrick, along with Blue Jays GM, Ross Atkins. There’s no better way to celebrate Black History Month than to learn about Bob’s experience as the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, or what he likes to call, “the house that Buck built.”