Sports Journalism Institute

Helping women and minorities get into newsrooms since 1993

Inspiration so strong it’s “hard to believe”

As I walked the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum with the rest of my SJI classmates on May 25, I noticed a small group of people, including one in a wheelchair. I asked what brought them to the museum and Arvis Jones said it was because of her father, Willie James Elesberry, 85, the man in the wheelchair. A dedicated baseball fan who grew up in Alabama, Elesberry had watched several Negro Leagues games as a youth and from the moment he learned that there was a museum dedicated to the history of those leagues, he knew he wanted to pay a visit. But Elesberry has Parkinson’s Disease, and that caused a few delays in the trip. But here the family was on this spring day, fulfilling his dream.

He didn’t say a lot as they made their way through the exhibits but what I did hear him say stuck with me the rest of the day: “Hard to believe,” he said. Those words applied as well to the Negro Leagues experience. The Negro Leagues played a role in reshaping American history and allowed the players to show their fighting spirit. Elesberry’s love for the Negro Leagues inspired him to travel from Texas to Missouri to pay homage to his idols. Watching him, and touring the museum, made me determined to find more stories like his as I begin my career. It’s an amazing feeling you get when you see a man connecting with something he holds so dear. As Elesberry might say: “Hard to believe.”

-Steven Hernandez (video produced by Hernandez)