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League 42 opening day on Jackie Robinson Day

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Monday is the opening day for League 42, the nonprofit baseball league. It falls on Jackie Robinson Day which the league is named after.

“To me, it means Black power and how he fought for us to play,” baseball player John Griffin said. “I feel like Jackie Robinson, he did a great job because if it wasn’t for him, kids like me and him wouldn’t be able to have fun with other kids.”

“To play in League 42, it means we’re representing a legend because he is the reason we are able to play this sport today,” Je’Marrius Willis said. “So whenever I’m on the field, I just think, play like Jackie Robinson.”

Executive director Bob Lutz says when they named the organization League 42, it set the bar high.

“We try to make sure we get to that bar,” Lutz said. “We want to make sure that we don’t just call ourselves League 42 and then let poor sportsmanship happen or kids sulking or giving up on themselves because the message of Jackie Robinson is a vital part of what we do.”

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Lutz says when the statue was first stolen, he felt defeated. Remembering Robinson’s legacy encouraged him.

“We’ve done so much to make that statue a reality,” Lutz said. “And when it was taken, it was like I don’t know, I don’t I don’t feel like this is something I can continue to do. As the minutes and hours passed, I started thinking about Jackie and his character and what he would have done, and certainly, he would not have given up. He would have found a way to go beyond, tried to make things better, and that’s what we’ve set out to do.”

After the statue was stolen, the organization received support nationwide. Lutz says the donations are going toward a new statue, and they are looking at other improvements.

“It’ll be used to replace the statue and make it more secure in this area,” Lutz said. “We hope it will be used to improve our baseball facilities, and we hope it will be used to enhance our education initiatives. There’s all kinds of things we do as a nonprofit that our expenses and our annual budget, as we’ve gotten bigger, has risen.”

There are 46 teams that will play over the next 11 weeks. Eight games will be playing starting tonight at 6. Willis says at first, he didn’t think he would like it, but now he is thankful his mom signed him up.

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