WASHINGTON -- Sharon Robinson had some eye-opening experiences Thursday. The daughter of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson went to the Library of Congress and then took a tour of the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.
Going to the Library of Congress was the first order of business for Robinson, as her father's memorabilia and letters were on display.
There was a letter Jackie Robinson wrote to former club president and general manager Branch Rickey around 1950, expressing how wrong it was for Rickey to be pushed out of the Dodgers organization. The letter also indicated that Robinson expected to be out the door himself. He ended up being traded to the New York Giants six years later, but Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947, never played for New York. He retired instead.
Rickey responded by telling Robinson that he had the ability to work in the front office or become an on-field coach.
"My father hoped he would have the opportunity [to work in baseball], but he was never given that opportunity," Sharon Robinson said. "Believe me, he had a very interesting post-baseball life, which was good for my dad. He [worked] for Chock Full o'Nuts. He worked in the Civil Rights movement, marching in support of the crisis that happened in the deep South. That made his life all the more important to him. It worked out. He didn't need to go into coaching. He did just what he did."
Sharon Robinson then was off to the Academy, and she was impressed with what she saw. Robinson, who is an educational programming consultant with Major League Baseball, learned the academy is a year-round educational and athletic facility designed to provide quality after-school and summer learning programs for boys and girls in Washington neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River.
The academy uses baseball and softball as vehicles to help develop literacy and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) skills, as well as healthy lifestyles through fitness, nutrition and cooking lessons in a safe, nurturing environment.
"Everything they are doing here is so critical to our kids," Robinson said. "To have a place like this, which is beautiful, very light and airy, it makes me feel very hopeful."
There were a couple of kids who were thrilled to see the daughter of a legend. A boy named Brandon, who was dressed like Jackie Robinson, created a diorama about the baseball icon. What impressed Sharon Robinson was that Brandon displayed more than action shots of her father on the baseball field. There was a shot of the Robinson family and several of Robinson marching during the Civil Rights era.
"[Brandon] was looking at the total man a great deal, which included the family component and his post-baseball career," she said. "A lot of kids don't like looking into that. Brandon did a lot of research. It made me very proud."
Robinson then interacted with the students about her father as part of Breaking Barriers, an educational program founded by Robinson, now in its 20th season. This initiative is designed to teach young students about the obstacles Jackie Robinson faced as he broke baseball's color barrier. The 2016 program includes an essay contest that will reward 20 students in grades 4-9 with prizes such as trips to the All-Star Game and World Series. The contest encourages students to share stories describing how they have used Jackie Robinson's values to overcome difficulties in their lives.
"I'm proud of all the children we've met over the years," Robinson said. "I love the fact that Major League Baseball has invested in this program for so many years, because it does make a difference to kids."