KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, the decision to come to Kansas City during the All-Star break, despite not participating in the game, was an easy one.
Howard, fresh off his first two games of the season after being activated from the disabled list before the Phillies' final pre-All-Star break series on Friday, spent part of Monday in Kansas City's 18th and Vine District, where the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is located.
The area is familiar territory for Howard, as it has become a regular pilgrimage for him. He showed a group of children from Kansas City's Challenger baseball program around a museum exhibit. (Challenger baseball, a Little League Baseball division run in Kansas City by the YMCA, gives athletes with special needs the opportunity to play baseball, and Howard showed the ballplayers around as part of a Little League badge promotion with Subway.)
"I've lost count [of museum trips] to be honest with you," Howard said. "I try to make it a yearly ritual. My son being up here and living up here, his birthday is on the 26th of January, so I'm always up here for his birthday parties and birthdays so I just try to make a trip before I head down to spring training."
Howard wasn't the only dignitary at the museum on Monday. Commissioner Bud Selig was there, as was Royals' owner David Glass. They both toured the facility and posed for pictures on the replica field in the center, which boasts life-size statues of famous Negro Leagues players at their respective positions, including Satchel Paige, Bob Gibson and Buck O'Neil, who was the museum's greatest ambassador until he passed away in 2006.
Currently there's a special All-Star themed section, which was teeming with a wide range of baseball team fans. It's a must stop for any baseball fan -- period -- and if you're one in Kansas City, it's a bucket list item. (If you somehow need even more reason to go there, one of Kansas City's most famous barbecue joints, Arthur Bryant's, is a handful of blocks to the east.)
The Phillies currently sit in last place in the East at 37-50 and 14 games behind the first-place Washington Nationals. Second baseman Chase Utley returned just 10 days before Howard did and Roy Halladay is scheduled to make a rehab start on Thursday. But will the trio's return be enough? To get to 85 wins, the Phillies will have to play .600 baseball the rest of the way -- no team in the National League currently has a winning percentage over that mark.
"It's a good thing that we play two halves and what we need to do as a team is just basically take this first half and forget about it and just focus on the second half and just try and go and play some lights out baseball in the second half. And focus on going out and winning the series because that's what it's going to take," Howard said.