When baseball players in the Negro Leagues showed up, they showed out. That’s what the redesigned 2020 Toyota Highlander is trying to do with its sleek new exterior and refined interior. A new commercial from the Japanese automaker called “Home Team” looks to shine light on both.
This year marks the 100-year anniversary of Negro Leagues Baseball, the segregated alternative to Major League Baseball that existed prior to integration in the late 1940s. In honor of the centennial, Toyota opted to include a player from that era in their latest commercial.
James “Jim” Robinson, former captain of the Kansas City Monarchs is featured as the family patriarch in the spot, titled “Home Team.” Robinson’s career started after Jackie Robinson had made it to the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1947.
The young Jim Robinson played his first Negro Leagues game for the Philadelphia Stars at Yankee Stadium.
After also playing for the Indianapolis Clowns, Robinson earned an invite to try out for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Korean War interrupted his chance to try out then, but after serving 21 months in the military, he got another chance. After his tryout,
the Cardinals assigned him to a Class B minor-league team.
Instead of accepting his fate, Robinson instead left the Cardinals affiliate and took his chances with the Kansas City Monarchs. It’s a replica of that Monarchs jersey that Robinson wears in the Highlander commercial.
The Toyota commercial was filmed partly at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.
“We are truly delighted that Toyota has chosen to honor the unsung heroes of the Negro Leagues this way,” says Bob Kendrick, President, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. “The passion, determination, and unwavering spirit from these individuals is truly an American story.”
“Home Team” will begin airing on March 30, 2020.
Go behind the scenes of the commercial below.