It’s Jackie Robinson Day (April 15th) and this year is a bit more special than before. It’s the 65th anniversary of the Hall of Famer’s Debut in 1947. League-Wide participation on April 15th will include all players wearing Robinson’s number 42, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) clinics, special ceremonies in Major League Baseball ballparks, including one featuring the Robinson family at Yankee Stadium and the debut a National Jackie Robinson Day public service announcement voiced by Hall of Famer Vin Scully.
Maybe it’s the old historian in me, but I really love Jackie Robinson Day. It’s a celebration of a great man and the recognition of Baseball’s role in American history. “When Jackie Robinson took the field in Brooklyn 65 years ago, he transcended the sport he loved and helped change our country in the most powerful way imaginable,” said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. “It is a privilege for Major League Baseball to celebrate Jackie’s enduring legacy each year, and we are proud that every April 15th, our young fans around the world have an opportunity to learn everything that the Number 42 stands for – courage, grace and determination.”
Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s wife and founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, comments, “It gives us great pride to commemorate the 65th anniversary of Jack’s barrier-breaking accomplishments.” “This anniversary serves as a reminder of Jack’s enduring legacy and the profound impact he had on America. It is my hope that this commemoration serves as an inspiration to all as we look to unite behind our common goals.”
Some of the pregame ceremonies will include home clubs featuring Jackie Robinson Day jeweled bases and lineup cards. A little showy at best, but there will also be special video shown in-stadium highlighting Jackie’s story and nine values. The Jackie Robinson Day PSA will trace Baseball’s diverse history of legends and today’s stars back to Jackie Robinson. If you are not lucky enough to get to a ballpark that day, the video will feature in order of appearance All-Stars Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Kemp, Ichiro Suzuki and Mariano Rivera, as well as Baseball Legends Frank Thomas, Tony Gwynn, Ozzie Smith, Eddie Murray, Rod Carew, Frank Robinson, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson. In order to grow the game, especially amongst the United States ever growing diverse population, it is absolutely essential to celebrate how Baseball doesn’t exist in a vacuum. What other sport can say that it played a major role in actually changing social and cultural mores in the country.
Similar to what they did in Japan, MLB is also taking to the local communities. On Sunday, April 15, 2012, Major League Baseball and RBI will host a baseball and softball clinic on the baseball field in Macombs Dam Park (Bronx, NY) for 200 young boys and girls from programs throughout the New York-area. This MLB youth initiative is designed to give underserved young people and communities the opportunity to play baseball and softball, encourage academic success and teach the value of teamwork and other important life lessons.
At some point in the late twentieth century, MLB sincerely fell out of touch with the American people. Nowhere is this more evident than with the 1994 strike. When Baseball came back, it suddenly had company – children playing Basketball and Soccer were vastly outnumbering children playing Little League. These sports (especially Basketball) offered more scholarships and opportunities for children in urban areas, suddenly making Baseball look like a relic of a bygone era. If MLB is looking to protect the future of the game, initiatives like Jackie Robinson Day are far more important than any baseball academy they can start on foreign soil.