Sabathia happy with how MLB honors Robinson's legacy

Sabathia happy with how MLB honors Robinson's legacy

BALTIMORE -- CC Sabathia grew up in a household where the story of Jackie Robinson was often re-told, and as the Yankees left-hander slips on No. 42 with the rest of the league on Wednesday, he believes that Major League Baseball has done a good job of keeping the barrier-breaking great's legacy alive.

"I think it's great," Sabathia said. "It's exciting that we get a chance to wear it. I think it's a big-time honor to be able to wear it. I think it's great that we honor him that way and we are able to put something together where it's meaningful and people kind of get it every year. It's cool."

Robinson debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, at Ebbets Field, breaking baseball's color barrier as the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues. Sabathia said that his grandfather often told him stories about Robinson's experience, which Sabathia still appreciates.

"I think everybody from that era was a Dodgers fan, just because of Jackie," Sabathia said.

The 2013 biographical film, "42," has become an important reference material in Sabathia's household. Sabathia said that he has screened the movie starring Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford with his family, and believes that it carried important messages for his 12-year-old son, Carsten Charles III.

"I think the movie has kind of helped the newer generation appreciate what he went through," Sabathia said. "I thought it was awesome. I think [Robinson's experience] was probably a little harsher than the movie portrayed, but I think they did a good job where I can take my son to go watch it and he can get the effect of what he went through.

"It was enough to be able to teach. I think the movie has helped a lot, just sparking interest in kids his age."

Every little bit helps as MLB pumps funds into programs like Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) and the MLB Urban Youth Academies to increase interest in the sport. On 2015 Opening Day active rosters, the percentage of total Major Leaguers who are black, African-American or African-Canadian was 8.26 percent.

"I feel like it's getting tough, for sure," Sabathia said. "I think you just look at all the other sports and all the other outlets you have; you've got the X Games and different sports. I think it's hard to get a full scholarship in baseball, so there's a lot of different factors that are weighing against baseball."

Sabathia has been active with the North Vallejo (Calif.) Little League, where he played his first games in the 1980s, and he has conducted numerous baseball camps through his PitCChIn Foundation, but Sabathia said that he hopes to open the doors even wider for the next generation of ballplayers.

"Kids are signing up and we get a lot of kids that are going to camps, but I still think there's something more we can do," Sabathia said. "I don't know if we need to make the leagues free or maybe you have baseball teams in every Boys & Girls Club, like how they have basketball. I just think there's got to be a way to make it easier to have kids get access."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.