Wearing 42 holds special meaning for Diaz

Cuba native recalls stories of Jackie Robinson's time in Havana

Wearing 42 holds special meaning for Diaz

ST. LOUIS -- For the eighth straight year, all uniformed personnel will don No. 42 on Friday as part of a Major League Baseball-wide remembrance of the day Jackie Robinson broke the game's color barrier. For some players like Aledmys Diaz, it'll be the first such opportunity to wear the number of a Hall of Fame player who had a unique connection to his home country.

Diaz, a Cuban native, grew up hearing stories not only about how Robinson desegregated baseball, but also of the time that Robinson spent in Cuba. The spring before he debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson spent 47 days in Havana, where the Dodgers were holding Spring Training.

Robinson wasn't a novelty in Cuba, since black players had broken into the Cuban League decades earlier. Cubans later learned the significance of Robinson's presence after following his career as an MLB player.

"It will be special for me," Diaz said of wearing No. 42. "Everybody knows the history behind Jackie Robinson and the opportunities he made for us. We know the story about Jackie playing there and then here in the big leagues. He opened a lot of opportunities for players to come here and play in the big leagues. It's going to be special for me to use that number."

The jerseys that players will wear to honor Robinson's legacy will later be raffled off to raise money for the Jackie Robinson Foundation and Cardinals Care. Fans can purchase raffle tickets from April 15 through May 15 for the chance to win a game-worn, autographed No. 42 jersey from Jackie Robinson Day, as well as two tickets to the team's July 22 game against the Dodgers.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.