Wrigley Field is than just baseball. There is the surrounding neighborhood.
The former South Drexel Avenue home of former Chicago American Giants owner J.B. Martin. (Negro Leagues Legends Photo)
This Martin Luther King Jr. Drive Walk of Fame plaque salutes Dr. J.B. Martin, former owner of the Chicago American Giants of the Negro Leagues. (Negro Leagues Legends Photo)
A brand new program that brings history, urban communities and baseball together has been launched by Michiana-based educators, social justice advocates and others.
"Experience Baseball" launched in January is a group (with non-profit status pending) that will coordinate a series of educational tours in baseball towns and tie together the teams and the often-impoverished, history-filled neighborhoods in which they reside.
Researchers and community leaders will be brought together to create community interest through a common thread of baseball.
"It's a cool experience to learn about baseball in a deep, intimate way," says Tobias Blake, who left his position as assistant director of Multicultural Student Programs and Services at the University of Notre Dame to became "Experience Baseball" general manager.
Details like speakers, pricing and specific content are being worked out, but it is likely that the tours will begin and end at a professional stadium with a bus tour in-between and expert speakers along the way. The tour would conclude with attendees taking in a ball game together.
Blake's interests include higher education, social media, critical race theory, daddying and baseball.
Blake, who writes a blog about baseball, race, education and more, has been talking with people in Chicago, Kansas City and Houston about tours in those cities in 2013. He expects 10 to 20 tours, with most marketed toward groups - educational (universities and colleges etc.), corporate leadership and community.
"We have baseball teams in urban areas that are underserved," said Blake. "We wanted to merge these two things."
Proceeds from the tours would go to local community groups. That might be Lost Boys, Inc., in Chicago, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) in Kansas City or similar organizations.
Not wishing to be too ambitious to start, the group is concentrating on a few cities in the first year with the hopes of adding all Major League Baseball and even some Minor League Baseball towns, quite possibly South Bend, in the future.
To raise funds for things like transportation and speaker honorariums, "Experience Baseball" is accepting donations of baseball books and cards that can be offered as thank you gifts to supporters.
Nicolas Sanchez, a Notre Dame undergraduate, serves as "Experience Baseball" program manaager.
The board of directors includes Dr. Raymond Doswell (Negro Leagues Baseball Museum curator), Dr. Maria McKenna (Notre Dame professor) and Daniel Day (Princeton University communications director).
Notre Dame law professor Ed Edmonds is a senior advisor.
Blake and Edmonds are Society for American Baseball Research members.
For more information, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.