Roberts: Reflecting on Jackie's influence

Roberts: Reflecting on Jackie's influence

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are the groundbreaking franchise of Jackie Robinson. When I put on this uniform as a player, I understood the special responsibility to honor those that played before me, as well as the amazing bond between the Dodgers and their fans. I feel that I have now come full circle in my career, and there is plenty of unfinished business left in L.A.

Observing Black History Month is important for baseball. For me, I became aware of Jackie Robinson right around age 15-16. My father is African-American. He told me as I was getting further along in my athletic career, he kind of educated me about Jackie and his story. So as I got older and more educated and wiser, just kind of digging more into his story, and I ultimately went to UCLA, and so I played at Jackie Robinson Field. So just seeing that really resonated with me and what an impact Jackie made on society and what a leader he was.

I think Jackie's influence is kind of two-fold -- with what Jackie did, and those who kind of followed him and played with him at that time, what they did to kind of break barriers and all that they had to go through. And I've heard many stories from Don Newcombe or even my father, who was the only African-American in his high school, and all that he had to endure, and I think for me in my seat right now, where I'm at, it's more of on the other side, where these people were trailblazers, and they really took a leap of faith and had to endure a lot of grief and pain and suffering, and I think for me, it's a responsibility to kind of continue that legacy that these men and women paved for us. But I do look at this as a responsibility to be the first minority manager and to do well in my chair and to do a great job. So it continues to create opportunities for other minorities moving forward.

My first Jackie Robinson Day was emotional. The first time for me, I was playing actually for the Padres, where at that point in time each team could delegate one person to wear No. 42, and so my teammates selected me to wear that number for that day. And then going forward, Major League Baseball had everybody wear No. 42 for that day. But that day was special for me. I wore my pants up, and I kind of was getting my lead like Jackie, and I just kind of felt Jackie inside of me, and I really wanted to show well that day. And my body felt great, and it was just a huge honor to be one of two people that day, myself and the opponent -- I don't recall who it was -- wearing No. 42. It was a special moment just to kind of give honor to Jackie. To see what Major League Baseball has done moving forward is amazing, and to see whatever race and whatever background that these Major League players have, you really understand and realize what Jackie did not only for the game of baseball but also our society.

For Jackie to talk about an African-American manager, not necessarily for the Dodgers, but for Major League Baseball, he said that in 1972 and I was born in '72, so there's a tie in there.

Dave Roberts is the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.