Every year on April 15, Major League Baseball pays tribute to the man who changed the game forever: Jackie Robinson.
Robinson broke the color barrier in the league back in 1947 when he first played with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
On Thursday and Friday, players and coaches will sport the No. 42 uniform that was retired in honor of Robinson. Athletics infielder Tony Kemp reflected on the legendary ball player’s life and thought about how he would view the game today.
“The way he was able to go about his business, and not really let that affect him, or it might have affected him, I’m not really sure, but you couldn’t see it in his play,” Kemp told NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil and Bip Roberts on Thursday. “I think he took everything he was getting negative off the field and he put it in between the lines.”
Robinson dealt with adversary and plenty of pushback once he set foot on an MLB field. He didn’t always take it in strides, but he took it.
Kemp has been one of the league’s biggest advocates on the impact on racial equality and social injustice incidents.
“It’s a whole different animal when you’re getting death threats and people aren’t wanting to see you play a sport that you love so even the mental toughness that [Robinson] had to just block out all the noise and not care what people said about what he was doing at the time,” Kemp said.
Kemp established the “+1 Effect,” a movement where he hopes to teach people about some of these issues in hopes of them impacting others. He has left his direct messages open across social media and still talks to those curious about it all, including his teammates.
“I think that was actually a big turning point,” Kemp said. “I think after the incidents that happened, I kind of just said, ‘Hey, I’m open to any conversation, obviously with the ‘+1 Effect,’ and the open, honest conversations about race, I kind of just said, ‘Hey, these are things I’m not afraid to talk about,’ and I think it’s gone a long way, I think guys were receptive to it and don’t mind asking questions. I still get guys who have left the A’s who still shoot me with questions about certain topics.”
“I don’t think our team is scared to talk about topics like that.”
The league will celebrate Robinson on Thursday and Friday for the 74th anniversary of his feat as both the baseball player and civil rights icon.
"Driving to the field today obviously is one of those times where you realize that, you wouldn't be able to come to a big-league park without him making that first so obviously it's monumental," Kemp said.