League 42’s Vandalized Jackie Robinson Statue Will Be Restored, Thanks to Donations – RedState

League 42’s Vandalized Jackie Robinson Statue Will Be Restored, Thanks to Donations – RedState

It’s the start of Black History Month, and this week’s Feel-Good Friday dovetails beautifully with it. As many of the RedState writers have worked to reinforce each February, Black history is American history, and organizations like League 42 reflect how one man’s history and brave act transformed the nation’s favorite pastime, and continues to transform lives.  

League 42 is a youth baseball league in Wichita, Kansas, that brings baseball to urban children between 5 and 14 years of age. The organization is named in honor of Jackie Robinson, the Black player who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball when he was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers (now Los Angeles Dodgers). The number “42” was Robinson’s jersey until he retired, and the number has since been retired in his honor. League 42 wants to inspire children with Robinson’s story and legacy, and embody his philanthropic and civil rights vision. So, they strive to make things affordable. They only charge $30 per player or family of siblings. That’s extremely generous for covering a full uniform (jersey, pants, belt, and hat), a baseball glove, and additional equipment like catcher’s gear, bats, and balls.

The organization was founded by Bob Lutz in 2013, and with generous funding from the city of Wichita and the community, they have grown the league from 16 teams and 200 kids in 2014, to 40 teams and 600 kids in 2020. They used that funding to expand and build the Jackie Robinson Pavilion. Lutz commissioned his friend John Parsons to design and craft a statue of Robinson to grace the entry to the pavilion. This would be one of only four statues of the baseball player displayed in our nation, and it was quite an endeavor. 

Parsons’ wife Carol said it took her husband nearly a year to craft the Robinson statue and an additional year to see the bronze come to life. Carol told Wichita’s KSN News that Parsons worked closely with Robinson’s widow and daughter to get the features of the icon just right. She said:

He was so excited. He was humbled. It was the first sculpture he had actually done that was supposed to look like somebody.

The statue was unveiled in 2021, and it has been a beautiful symbol and source of joy for the children of the league. 

 

It was. Until some idiot (or group of idiots) decided to steal the statue and destroy it. It was taken in the early hours of January 25, and five days later on January 30, remnants of the statue were found burning in a dumpster. Lutz, the League 42 kids, and the Wichita community were all heartbroken.

League 42 tries to embody the spirit of Jackie Robinson, our namesake, who was born on this day, Jan. 31, 105 years ago. In 2021, we erected a lifesize statue of Jackie at our baseball complex inside McAdams Park in Wichita, Kansas. Recently, that statue was cut off just above Jackie’s shoe tops and stolen from its rightful place. It was found in disrepair and cannot be repaired As law enforcement searches for the culprits of this crime, we remain devoted to our mission of providing low-cost baseball and education opportunities for our 600 kids, ages 5-14. They are as heartbroken over this theft as any of us and we are determined to replace the statue.  

Lutz set up a GoFundMe to garner funds to do just that. The original artist, John Parsons, had since passed away. Thankfully, the molds for the statue have been preserved, but the expense of recreating a life-sized statue was prohibitive for this non-profit.

It’s anger, it’s disbelief, it’s sadness. I’m trying not to overstate this, but it’s such a huge part of our league,” Lutz said.

He said the Hall of Famer embodied the character they wish to instill in the kids that play in their league. 

“We appeal to a lot of African-American families and kids who have gotten to know his story. We have a void in our organization right now without that statue,” said Lutz. 

The process to get the statue in McAdams Park took years and permission from the Robinson family. This was something, Lutz said, that makes theft even worse. 

“We did obtain that permission from the Robinson family. To have this happen is embarrassing for our community. It’s an embarrassment,” said Lutz. 

The story gained local and national coverage, and the donations skyrocketed within a few days. Not only has League 42 almost reached its fundraising goals, but the Major League Baseball organization and other clubs committed to providing League 42 with funding for the recreation of the statue, as well as the organization’s future programs!

                                                    

John Parsons’ mold of the Jackie Robinson statute is housed at the Loveland Company in Colorado, and they are honored to be able to recraft the work of art and participate in unveiling it once again in Wichita.

                                                    

Jackie Robinson said, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” An entire organization is inspired and fueled by Robinson’s life, and his tremendous impact continues to change children’s lives and the face of our nation.

Originally Posted on: https://redstate.com/jenniferoo/2024/02/02/feel-good-friday-league-42s-vandalized-jackie-robinson-statue-will-be-restored-thanks-to-donations-n2169575
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