DeShields proud to honor Robinson's legacy

Outfielder respects baseball pioneer's impact

ARLINGTON -- Delino DeShields Jr. led off for the Rangers on Wednesday while playing left field and wearing No. 42. It was a pretty neat way for a rookie to emulate a Hall of Famer on Jackie Robinson Day in Major League Baseball.

"Obviously, it means something," DeShields said. "He gave us the opportunity, especially African-Americans, to play baseball, the greatest game on earth. My first Jackie Robinson Day in the Majors, playing left field and leading off, it's something I will always remember."

Robinson is honored on April 15 because it is the anniversary of the day he broke baseball's color barrier by playing his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. But Robinson was also a tremendous player for nine years, an offensive force who could hit anywhere in the lineup and play multiple positions on defense.

Second base was his primary position, but he also played some first base, third base and left field.

DeShields -- whose father, Delino Sr., had a distinguished 13-year career as a Major League second baseman -- knows much about the Robinson legacy.

"My dad, he loved Jackie Robinson," DeShields said. "Growing up, [Robinson] was always an impactful person to me because of my mom and dad. It was something they wanted me to follow and hear about. He was the first African-American to play, he gave me the opportunity to play, the people before me and the people after me. He did a lot of remarkable things."

Robinson's No. 42 is retired throughout baseball, but all players wear it on April 15. That means Prince Fielder's No. 84 is cut in half for the day.

"It means a lot," Fielder said. "I don't know if I could have gone through what he did. I'm glad he did so I'm able to play today."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.