PASADENA (News4usonline) – One of the most special days in all of sports take place every spring. This is when Major League Baseball pulls out all of the spots to pay homage to Jackie Robinson. This year’s celebration of the annual Jackie Robinson Day was nothing short of spectacular.
Marking the 75th anniversary of Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, the Los Angeles community and the Dodgers organization hosted a slew of events to honor the legendary trailblazer.
The celebration kicked off with a reading of “I Am Jackie Robinson” at Longfellow Elementary where 575 students from the Pasadena-based school were greeted by Jackie Robinson’s son, David and his granddaughter, Ayo Robinson.
The two family members of baseball royalty were also joined by Dodgers pitcher David Price and The Player Alliance founders Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson. Each member of the elementary school was gifted a copy of the book.
Granderson had high praise for the Robinson family and directed a special message toward Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s wife. Mrs. Robinson showed up to the event prior to the Dodgers taking the field against the Cincinnati Reds.
“On behalf of all the Black men that have played this game professionally, we are here to thank (Mr. Robinson) for everything that (he has) done. Your husband is the reason why we are able to do what we do. Although we can’t thank him in person we have created the Players Alliance to continue his fight for equity and inclusion in our game, said Granderson.”
The Player Alliance, inspired by Jackie Robinson, was created “to improve the representation of Black Americans in all levels of baseball.”
The next stop on the JR tour was John Muir High School where Jackie Robinson earned a number of awards as a standout four-sport athlete. A mural was unveiled in tribute to his greatness. With Robinson’s family once again in attendance, they were also joined by outfielder Mookie Betts, the Dodgers superstar in residence.
“What he had to endure off the field just in regular life is tough.,” Betts said while speaking to the high school students at the ceremony.
To still go out on the field and perform is super special and just kind of showed who he is and what he was…. I want to thank Edwin Jackson and Curtis Granderson. Jackie paved the way for them, they paved the way for me, now it is my duty to pave the way.”
Several hours before the game started the entire Dodgers roster gathered around the Jackie Robinson statue in the centerfield plaza. David Robinson gave an inspiring speech to the players and encouraged them to use their platform in order to continue his father’s mission.
“Life is tough, there are a lot of distractions, there are a lot of evils, there is a lot of sadness,”
You can look into your own family’s life or the life of your heroes,” David Robinson said. “You will not feel a weakness, you will know that you can take the pain because it has been taken by your people generation after generation after generation. Your generation is going to be the one that builds from the Jackie Robinsons, from the Martin Luther Kings, from the Malcolm X, from the last generations. You are going to build the chain of generational progress… Remember the blood and the tears that were spilled for all of us to be here today.”
Rachel Robinson was given a warm welcome as she was gifted a jacket with Jackie’s image on it by Granderson and Jackson. Eight students that were this year’s winners of the Jackie Robinson Foundation scholarship program threw out the first pitch.
Every player on both sides wore No. 42, like all the rest of the players in the league, paying the ultimate respect for Jackie Robinson. The Dodgers beat the Reds 3-1 behind multi-hit games from both Trea Turner and Gavin Lux. The Dodgers fans were sent home happy, but ultimately April 15 is about more than the game.
“Baseball is a great game,” David Robinson said. “But for Jackie Robinson, it wasn’t a game. It was an opportunity to break a bond that is psychological and real, and it was achieved. We have a right to celebrate here today because a goal was accomplished.
“But my father would always say, where have we come as a nation in these 75 years? Have we really brought ourselves together? Have we really created equality? What is the African American position? Those questions are still on the table of challenges that are facing America now.”
Benjamin Verbrugge is a student at CSU Dominguez Hill studying journalism. “Sports have brought me much joy throughout my life, and I want to be able to give a little back to something that has meant so much to me. I grew up in Los Angeles primarily following the Lakers and Dodgers, but I am also an avid fan of sporting events, news, and stories in general.”