Park alum leads historic rebrand

Before last year, Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, did not expect to be involved with a rebrand of a professional baseball organization.

But then Mark Brandmeyer purchased the Kansas City T-Bones after the 2019 season. He was interested in rebranding his team to become the Kansas City Monarchs and contacted Kendrick before the pandemic about his idea.

After four or five months of negotiations, the two parties came to an agreement to rebrand the Kansas City T-Bones to the Kansas City Monarchs, taking over the name of the most successful Negro League franchise ever. The organization’s official title will be Kansas City Monarchs Baseball Club.

“The more I talked with Mark, and the more we got to know his team and got an opportunity to see his business plan, it became, I think, more significant than I thought it was initially,” Kendrick said.

Kendrick, who graduated from Park College in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in communication arts, played an instrumental role in this rebrand. Kendrick also played two years with the Park basketball team before suffering an injury. He has served as the museum’s president since March 2011.

About the Monarchs

The first Negro League was founded in 1920 at the Paseo YMCA as the Negro National League. The Monarchs went on to win that league four times before joining an independent league in 1932. After five years, the Monarchs joined the Negro American League where they won eight championships over the course of 24 years. The Monarchs also won two Negro World Series titles in 1924 and 1942.

The Monarchs won 12 league titles and two Negro League World Series championships between 1920 and 1965. For comparison, that is more than twice the amount of league titles won by the Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Royals and Sporting KC combined.

Kendrick explained that the Kansas City Monarchs are often compared to the New York Yankees, and some say they were even greater than the 27-time World Series champion Yankees. It is safe to say that the T-Bones, a two-time independent league champion, have big shoes to fill.

Rebranding details

Although the museum partners with the Kansas City Royals for an annual game to honor the Negro Leagues, never before had anyone approached Kendrick about bringing the Monarchs name back to life.

“I think it is already uniting our community around the spirit of the Negro Leagues,” said Kendrick. “I anticipate you will see a multitude of demographics out supporting the ball club – white, black, brown – going out because the club is now recognized as the Kansas City Monarchs.”

Kendrick also described the rebranding as a “moving billboard” whenever the Kansas City Monarchs travel. While he admitted it was important to protect the title of the Kansas City Monarchs and the Negro Leagues, the decision was a “no-brainer” because of all the opportunities for education and revenue for the museum.

As part of the partnership, Kendrick said the museum will approve of all merchandise that the team sells to maintain the integrity of the brand. Kendrick admitted he is particularly excited for the stadium to become an extension of the museum as part of the partnership. He plans to build displays around the stadium and devise other celebratory ways to pay tribute to the original Monarchs and the Negro Leagues.

Kansas City Monarchs logo.
Courtesy of Kansas City Monarchs Baseball Club

The organization has also changed its stadium name, which will now be called Field of Legends. The Monarchs will compete in the American Association of Professional Baseball, which has plans to begin the 2021 regular season on Tuesday, May 18 with a 100-game schedule. After missing 2020, the organization will look to return to the postseason for the third straight season.

“I think just the beauty of minor league baseball, and particularly independent league baseball, is that the Negro League was the first independent league in many ways,” Kendrick stated. “You know, they declared their independence from Major League Baseball because Major League Baseball wouldn’t allow them to play.”

There will be no changes to the Monarchs coaching staff, led by manager Joe Calfapietra and former Royals second baseman Frank White, who will serve as the team’s first base coach. The team also announced the signing of infielder Christian Colon, who hit the World Series-winning base hit for the Royals in 2015.

“And now we just waiting for the PA announcer to say ‘now here’s your Kansas City Monarchs,” Kendrick said.