Each year since 1997, Major League Baseball has honored Jackie Robinson on April 15 with each player wearing his famous No. 42 jersey to commemorate his life and legacy as the first black player to break the color barrier.
It's a special day in baseball and this week several Nationals players shared their thoughts on what Jackie Robinson Day means to them with the annual remembrance set for Friday.
"He of course broke the barrier, the color barrier for myself and all of the African-Americans, our race, to the Dominicans and Australians, to get the opportunity to play this wonderful game of baseball," center fielder Ben Revere said.
"We know the story about Jackie Robinson. If you play the game most of your life, you know who Jackie Robinson is and his story. Definitely to me, it's a privilege and an opportunity. He allowed us to play this game. Without him, I don't know what anything would be right now or what I would be if I wasn't playing. It's definitely a blessing for him to overcome all the circumstances he had to go through, with racial discrimination in this game and to go through that. The big man upstairs, he definitely had a plan. He chose his toughest soldier to do that. That was Jackie Robinson, to overcome that. His strong heart, he really prevailed. He really showed our race, no matter what, that we could play any type of sport."
"For me, obviously it's big. A lot of guys in here, without him there wouldn't be an opportunity to play. It might not be possible," starter Joe Ross - who faces the Phillies on Friday - said. "To even be here on that day and to actually start on that day, I think it's one of those things where you're not actually thinking about it, but in the back of your mind it's a little bit more motivation. Pitching on a day like that, I think there's a little bit more of an incentive to go out and do well."
"It's cool because it's showing respect for the game and showing respect for one of the most important players we've ever had in baseball history for what he was able to do, to cross the color barrier," starter Max Scherzer said. "I think it's a good thing for Major League Baseball to honor that and as players to show respect for all the greats before us. Obviously, he was one of the greatest."
"It's a part of our history," first baseman Clint Robinson said. "To honor someone so significant to our game like that is always something we enjoy getting to take part in. We wear those jerseys proudly. Everyone has the same number and it means something different to every other player."
"It's very special, what he did for this game and for ballplayers. It's something to be recognized," outfielder Michael Taylor said. "Just to remember him and what he did for the game, to be able to wear his number, it's really cool that the whole league does that for him."
With Mariano Rivera having retired from the game of baseball, no one wears No. 42 when it's not Jackie Robinson Day. And just putting that number on carries a lot of significance for the players. The league auctions off the jerseys after the game, though some players noted they would love to frame the jersey to put in their home.
"Just wearing that jersey, it gives me goosebumps," Revere said. "I feel like I am Jackie Robinson when I put the jersey on."