Nationals

Nationals

By Michaela Johnson

Every year since 2004, the MLB has celebrated Jackie Robinson Day to commemorate Robinson’s significant and historic effects on the game of baseball.

On opening day 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American Major League Baseball player, breaking the race barrier between the MLB and the Negro leagues of the time.

To honor Robinson, players and team personnel wear the number 42, a jersey number that has been retired from the league since 1997. Robinson was the first athlete in any sport to have his number universally retired.

In addition to playing in No. 42 jerseys, individual clubs and players have their own ways of celebrating Jackie Robinson.

The Nationals took part by holding their annual Black Heritage Day on the same day as Jackie Robinson Day. Nats skipper Dusty Baker, one of two Black managers in the MLB, talked about the significance of this day in a post-game press conference. “Every day is Jackie Robinson Day to me,” Baker said. “If  it weren’t for him I wouldn’t be in baseball and I wouldn’t be working as a player and I wouldn’t have a job.”

Outfielder Bryce Harper shared this photo of his custom cleats.

Orioles outfielder Adam Jones explained what Jackie Robinson Day means to him in an interview with ESPN. “It's a celebration of a man that was ahead of his time and at the forefront for what he believed in,” Jones said. “I always try to ... understand what he's been through and try and treat baseball as the treat it really is.”

Jones also wore custom cleats for the day.

The Dodgers, with whom Robinson spent all ten years of his major league career, unveiled a bronze statue of his signature slide into home plate. The club has moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles since Robinson's time, but his legacy within the organization lives on just as strong. Robinson’s wife, daughter and a number of extended family members attended the ceremony. The statue at Dodger Stadium is the eighth statue of Robinson in the country, reportedly the most of any American athlete.

Former MLB commissioner Bud Selig officially stated the Jackie Robinson Day would occur annually on April 15 in 2005. The league-wide donning of No. 42 jerseys began in 2009 and has been a tradition ever since.

Here are some other examples of clubs and players honoring Robinson around the league:

Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano: "Jackie is my hero."

The San Francisco Giants used Jackie Robinson Day to look forward to their own African American Heritage night. 

Indians manager Terry Francona put it best, saying, "In my opinion, this is the most important day we salute, or we honor, of any day of the year." 

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