Davis, Francona explain appreciation for Jackie

Davis, Francona explain appreciation for Jackie

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rajai Davis understands the opportunities made available to him because Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier. When the Indians host the Mets at Progressive Field on Friday, the Tribe outfielder will reflect on and celebrate Robinson's legacy.

"I admire what he was able to achieve under pressures, stresses," Davis said. "So it's something that obviously baseball wants to last, and they don't want us to forget. It's good. It was good for baseball what he was able to do and how he was able to, against all odds, not just be a dynamic player but to do it under the conditions and circumstances. I suppose most of us don't even know the half of what he had to go through.

"Somebody had to pioneer it. Somebody had to pave the way. And usually, it's harder for those guys. But it's not as easy for me either. I get it. That's just the way of life right now. It's something you deal with, and you say to yourself, 'If he did it under those conditions, I can do it under these.'"

• Jackie Robinson Day coverage

Friday is Jackie Robinson Day throughout MLB. Ceremonies in ballparks around the country will commemorate the 69th anniversary of Robinson playing his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

For Davis, who debuted in the Major Leagues with the Pirates in 2006, the chance to reflect on a historic moment has great significance. To him, there's room for more progress to be made.

"I think we still have a ways to go," said Davis, 35. "How many African-Americans are in the league? … It's still a ways to go. We've started it. We did a good thing. How many good things will we do, though?"

Indians manager Terry Francona hopes the day holds meaning beyond the sport.

"I would hope that it's special for everybody, whether you're in baseball or not," Francona said. "I get conflicted a little bit, because I think a tribute to what he went through is off-the-charts deserving. I just want to make sure that we don't get caught up in ever patting ourselves on the back for celebrating what baseball did. It's him.

"And to me, it's a reality check. The fact that we have to celebrate treating people equal, to me, that is just one of the most absurd things I've ever heard of. So I guess it's a good reminder. I hope that day is used maybe as much for that as anything else."

Andrew Astleford is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.