Major League Baseball is taking its celebration of Jackie Robinson’s legacy to another level in his centennial year.
On Monday, MLB will be announcing a partnership with the Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF) to create a year-long schedule of events aimed at honoring Jackie’s legacy in baseball and throughout society. Everything begins Thursday, which would have been Robinson’s 100th birthday, and will include Play Ball events tied to Robinson’s baseball journey, a traveling museum exhibit, efforts from all 30 MLB teams plus fund-raising and awareness efforts throughout the year.
The new initiative will serve as an extension of Jackie Robinson Day, which the league has observed every April 15 since 2004.
Since its inception, Jackie Robinson Day has become one of the most important dates on MLB’s calendar. The league-wide celebration commemorates the anniversary of Robinson becoming the first African-American player in league history. Every year, the players pay their respects by wearing Robinson’s retired No. 42.
That will not change. But the scale in which Robinson is honored certainly will. That’s because the celebration will not be limited to one game or one ballpark on one single day, or even one week.
A year-long celebration of Jackie Robinson
The commemorative activities will begin this Thursday, Jan. 31, on what would have been Robinson’s 100th birthday. Jackie’s wife Rachel Robinson, and their daughter Sharon Robinson will be attending a series of events around the New York City area, including receiving the key to the Borough of Brooklyn. It was with the Brooklyn Dodgers that Robinson broke the color barrier on April 15, 1947, so there’s a lot of meaning and history behind that event.
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred will join them Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. for the opening reception of the “In the Dugout with Jackie Robinson Exhibit” at the Museum of the City of New York.
There are numerous events scheduled through February and March, including a week of remembrance at Jackie and Rachel’s alma mater, UCLA. Before and during the season, MLB and JRF will be hosting countless community events, ranging from youth baseball activities to fundraisers for the JRF’s scholarship and education programs. All 30 teams will participate with unique events throughout the season.
For example: The Arizona Diamondbacks are naming their 42nd youth field in their community after Robinson in April. The Atlanta Braves are inviting teams from the Jackie Robinson Boys & Girls Club in Cairo, Ga., to the team’s annual youth baseball classic in July.
Another cool thing that’s starting in February for Black History Month is a Play Ball tour that will visit cities along Robinson’s path to the big leagues. Play Ball, MLB’s initiative to increase youth participation in the game, will hold an event Feb. 7 at the Kansas City Royals MLB Urban Youth Academy, located next to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
After that, there will be events in Montreal (where Robinson played in the minor leagues for the Dodgers) and Pasadena (where he was raised).
Jackie Robinson Museum opening in New York
The year-long celebration will culminate with the opening of the Jackie Robinson Museum in downtown Manhattan in December.
“It has been our family’s dream to have a physical space where my father’s legacy and the values and ideals by which he lived could inspire others. A year of specially-designed, celebratory events is a terrific way to shepherd in that dream and lead up to the opening of the Jackie Robinson Museum,” Rachel and Sharon Robinson said of the museum’s scheduled opening. “We are excited to shine a light on my father’s life while raising funds to continue to positively impact the lives of others.”
Prior to the Jackie Robinson Museum grand opening, JRF will launch a traveling exhibit of featured museum items during the months of July and August. Among the scheduled stops will be Cleveland during All-Star Week (July 5-9).
Jackie Robinson: Coming to a baseball video game near you
In addition to the added community events, gamers will be excited to learn the Jackie Robinson celebration will carry over to MLB-licensed video games.
Full details were not available in Monday’s press release, but it has been confirmed that three of MLB-licensed video games – Sony’s “MLB The Show,” the MLB-developed “Home Run Derby” mobile and “RBI Baseball” — will be joining the celebration. More specific details are expected to be announced soon.
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