Satchel's son helps open Jr. RBI ceremonies

Satchel's son helps open Jr. RBI Classic ceremonies

Satchel's son helps open Jr. RBI ceremonies
KANSAS CITY -- Robert Paige, the son of legendary pitcher Satchel Paige, had been to Satchel Paige Memorial Park before Friday night.

He was last there on June 5, 1982, the day the stadium was originally dedicated in his father's name. Robert remembers that day being extremely hot, but maybe not quite as hot as Friday. In all likelihood, that day in 1982 was the last time Satchel ever set foot on a mound. He died three days later.

Robert got to gaze upon the lush green outfield and well-kept infield at the refurbished Satchel Paige Memorial Park, which hosted the Jr. RBI Classic opening ceremonies on Friday. He said his father would've been tremendously honored to have his name on a beautiful stadium that promotes youth baseball in Kansas City.

"His lifelong ambition was to leave a lasting mark, to leave something of a structure so kids could see and kids could be aware of his contributions and his commitment to the game," Robert said.

The 11- and 12-year-old players in the Jr. RBI Classic, a non-competitive tournament for 12 baseball and softball teams taking place in Kansas City this weekend, listened to Paige and others speak before taking the field for a skills clinic administered by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.

Paige wasn't the only family member of a late Negro Leaguer on hand. Ernie Radcliffe, the nephew of Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe, manages the Chicago Cubs RBI team. After Paige addressed the crowd and took photos with a new Satchel plaque for the stadium, Radcliffe approached the backstop and got Paige's attention.

"My uncle caught your father," Radcliffe told Paige before introducing himself. "Double Duty was my uncle."

The two shook hands right underneath the Satchel Paige Memorial Stadium sign, which has big, red letters. Radcliffe said he would bet that his late uncle was looking down on the 74-year-old stadium in awe.

"To see the stadium refurbished, Major League style, I know he's in heaven smiling really big," Radcliffe said.

Major League Baseball, the Royals, the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department and The Scotts Company all helped in the renovation of the stadium. David Glass, the owner of the Royals, and his son, Dan, the president of the Royals, were also on hand for the opening ceremonies.

Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett, the 2012 All-Star Ambassador, told the crowd of parents, players and volunteers that the field was better than some he played on in the Minor Leagues, and even a couple in the Majors.

"This is a beautiful, beautiful field," Brett told the crowd.

Brett, raised in El Segundo, Calif., asked the Long Beach RBI team if it knew where El Segundo was. They did.

"Baseball has allowed me a chance to travel the world, to travel the United States and play baseball," Brett said. "I hope it gives one of you, and many, many more, the same opportunity that it gave me."

For Robert Paige, the night was about more than the legacy of his father, the first Negro Leagues player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

"Even though this stadium was named in honor of my dad, I would also like to say that I hope it also reflects the legacy of all those players in the Negro Leagues here," Paige told the crowd.

The Jr. RBI Classic continues through Monday. Players will tour the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum on Monday afternoon.

Clark Goble is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.