While February is often known as Black History Month, this year also marked another special occasion: the 100-year anniversary of Negro Leagues Baseball. In their new commercial for the Toyota Highlander, they honor that legacy by featuring baseball legend James “Jim” Robinson.
The commercial is called “Home Team,” and it features Robinson – the former captain of the Negro Leagues team Kansas City Monarchs – spending time with his family while riding around in Toyota’s new vehicle.
Recently, Toyota hosted a private brunch at Apollo Theater with a panel that included Robinson, Corey Seaton of Burrell Communications Group (the company that created the commercial), and Craig Payne, executive program manager of the product development office of Toyota Motor North America. The panel was moderated by ESPN/ABC News correspondent Ryan Smith. At the same event, Toyota also donated $25,000 to Harlem Little League.
Since black people were disallowed from joining major and minor baseball leagues because of racism, black players started their own teams and formed the negro leagues. Robinson is one of the league’s more accomplished players, and he shared stories from his time in the Negro Leagues: playing in his first all-star game at Cominsky Park in Chicago, tumultuous team bus rides with sleepy drivers and no air conditioning, signing a minor league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, and more.
“As a young fella, maybe 11 or 12 years old, my father used to take me to Negro League games. I had a chance to see people like Satchel Paige, Oscar Charleston, and some of the greats that we hear about and read about,” Robinson told Smith in a conversation after the panel. “Now that I look back, the fact that I’m connected to those people and connected to the Negro League makes me feel like I did accomplish something. Negro League baseball is a vital part of American history – not just sports history, but American history. The Negro League came about because some people had the courage and the stamina to come up with their own league since they weren’t able to integrate into so-called organized baseball.”
Seaton said that after one of Toyota’s employees brought attention to the fact that 2020 was the centennial of the Negro Leagues. After researching, they found that Jim Robinson was one of the few players from that time who was still around.
Robinson said that when players from the Negro Leagues finally got a chance to play in the majors, they “showed up and showed out” – and that concept, Seaton said, matched perfectly with Toyota’s Highlander.
“It really lined up with the Toyota Highlander. It’s a very stylish vehicle, it’s something that empowers you and makes you feel good when you pull up, like people are checking you out.”
The “Home Team” commercial is scheduled to begin airing in late March and early April.