ST. PETERSBURG – It was 69 years ago that Jackie Robinson stepped onto the field to take his position for the Brooklyn Dodgers at first base April 15, 1947. In doing so he broke through baseball’s color barrier, becoming the first African American to play in the modern era of the Major Leagues. A superlative ballplayer, a kind man and a courageous human being, Robinson took those necessary first steps to integrate America’s pastime. Since then, countless African- American players have in turn followed in his footsteps.
To commemorate Breaking Barriers, Jackie Robinson Day this Fri., April 15, the Tampa Bay Rays are planning a series of special activities at Tropicana Field and throughout the community. The events aim to recognize Robinson’s nine core values of courage, determination, teamwork, persistence, integrity, citizenship, justice, excellence and commitment.
“Our mission is to energize our community through the magic of Rays baseball and this week we will do that by honoring the legacy of Jackie Robinson,” said Rays President Brian Auld. “All of us at the Rays are sincerely grateful for the support and input that our organizing committee consisting of African-American leaders throughout Tampa Bay has provided to ensure that our Jackie Robinson Day celebration is a success.”
During this league-wide celebration, all players on every team will wear Robinson’s uniform number 42. The Rays have worn number 42 each year for the celebration since 2008. During batting practice, Rays players will sport a special t-shirt with the number 42, and all Rays staff will also wear shirts with Robinson’s number for the day.
The Rays are also offering a discount of two tickets for $42 for Friday’s series-opening game against the Chicago White Sox. To purchase tickets, visit raysbaseball.com/42.
The Pitching Promises art installation will debut at Tropicana Field near Gate 6 on the main level on Friday, and a pregame presentation will feature nine community leaders representing Robinson’s nine core values. Also, participants of the Write Field Program will be recognized in a pregame ceremony. The Rays Baseball Foundation has partnered with The Poynter Institute to support the program, which is designed to improve the academic performance and life skills of local middle school boys.
The national anthem will be performed by the Arts Conservatory for Teens and the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch will go to Emery Ivery of the United Way Suncoast. A number of community leaders and groups will attend the game with Rays leadership in the Press Level Patio area.
This Saturday the Rays will host a free baseball clinic for Burg Baseball at Tropicana Field and community service projects at Midtown Police Athletic League (PAL) in St. Pete and Rey Park in West Tampa from 9 to noon. Various team staff and community volunteers will be on hand at both locations.