TAMPA — It might be an old Tampa Smokers jersey. It could be a photograph of action from the once burgeoning Inter-Social League. Maybe it's a bat or cap that once belonged to a famous major-league player.
Representatives from the Smithsonian will be in Tampa on Saturday to examine artifacts, photos or memorabilia for possible inclusion in a new national collection — "Latinos and Baseball: In the Barrios and the Big Leagues'' — that will celebrate the social and cultural influences of the game on the Latino community.
In turn, the Tampa Baseball Museum at the Al Lopez House has turned Saturday into a full-fledged day of education and fun surrounding Tampa's baseball heritage.
All the events, held at the 1930 Grande Room, 1930 7th Ave., in Ybor City, are free. Members of the public are encouraged to attend and bring their baseball artifacts, which can be reviewed by the Smithsonian curators during the collection times of 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m.
The event also will include the screening of documentaries and presentations, a panel discussion featuring historians and authors and a reception with book signings and autograph sessions.
Throughout the day, Tampa Baseball Museum curator Elizabeth McCoy will conduct tours, including a preview of exhibits and artifacts that will be on display once the museum opens.
"It's going to be a wonderful day,'' McCoy said. "I used to travel to D.C. every summer and I was at the Smithsonian year after year. That made me want to go into this (career field) and made such an impact on me. It's amazing that we are now able to partner with an institution that has such a huge impact on our national cultural landscape.
"We really think this will give a great sense about the historical importance of baseball in Tampa. We want to make sure our region has great representation with the Smithsonian's efforts, so I'm excited about the possibility of learning about some new artifacts from the public.''
Tampa is among 11 collection sites nationwide — and the only one in the Southeast.
"For the Smithsonian, the benefit of doing this is so vast,'' said Margaret Salazar-Porzio, curator at the National Museum of American History. "When you talk about 'Latinos and Baseball,' Tampa is at the very heart of this story. We are very interested in trying to preserve the history of Latino communities through the lens of baseball.
"These generational stories are very exciting for us. That's how you preserve history. You get these stories told. You keep the legacy alive from when your grandfather was a young man. It's very important.''
Salazar-Porzio and Magdalena Mieri, the Smithsonian's Director of Latino Programs, will be in Tampa to examine potential artifacts for the exhibit, which is scheduled to begin in 2018.
"We're looking forward to meeting people, telling them about the project and hearing what they have to say,'' Salazar-Porzio said. "I'm sure we'll have follow-up conversations and that will keep us well connected to Tampa and its baseball heritage.''
Contact Joey Johnston at [email protected]