April 15 has been designated as Jackie Robinson Day by Major League Baseball. It is a day set aside to commemorate Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball. It is one of my favorite days as it gives fans everywhere an opportunity to ponder the events and more importantly the person who changed baseball forever.
In the past few years the pageantry surrounding Jackie Robinson Day have gotten bigger as players, coaches, and umpires now wear number 42 to recognize this great man.
Jackie Robinson Day is not just about players and uniforms, it is about hope and dreams and the ability to make a positive change even when faced with insurmountable circumstances stacked against you.
My wife Trina teaches in the local school system and takes the opportunity to bring the story of Jackie Robinson to life by reading to the children and allowing them to discuss what it must have been like to faces the challenges Robinson did in his playing career.
With the Arizona Diamondbacks playing the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium it is especially appropriate this year. The Diamondbacks will see first hand the history that Robinson left behind.
During her teaching, Trina always tries to connect these events with the kids putting some context around the history that the kids could understand. Most of the children she teaches are from lower income families that struggle to make ends meet.
They face struggles that in their eyes seem as large as those Robinson faced. Many of these children have been labeled as slow, incapable of learning, or somehow described negatively. They are ridiculed by their peers and excluded by many.
Despite this treatment they hold their head up high and try to keep a smile on their faces as they go through their daily class work. Educators in my wife’s school try to look beyond the labels focusing instead on the potential and how they can bring out the best of these children despite the hardships they will face because of it.
In a very real sense these kids are descendants of the spirit of Jackie Robinson. Through the tales of his achievements these kids can relate. Perhaps one of these stories will touch a young boy or girl’s heart and they will find the inner strength to overcome the negativity they receive and instead become something greater than even they could imagine.
That is the true meaning of Jackie Robinson Day. So while we sit and watch the sights and sounds of the ballgame and see our favorite players all dressed in uniform number 42, let us remember what Jackie Robinson stood for and how his legacy continues to encourage the youth of today.