CC, Hicks cherish chance to celebrate Jackie

CC, Hicks cherish chance to celebrate Jackie

TORONTO -- There is some excitement in CC Sabathia's voice as he describes the significance of seeing April 15 approaching on the calendar, knowing that he will again get to slip on uniform No. 42 as Major League Baseball celebrates the life and legacy of Jackie Robinson.

"I definitely know that I wouldn't have been able to do what he did," Sabathia said. "Trying to play baseball at the highest level and still having to deal with not sleeping in hotels with your teammates and different things, I couldn't even imagine it.

"He's an American icon. To be able to put that number on feels good."

Every player in the Majors will wear No. 42 on Friday, marking the 69th anniversary of the legendary Hall of Famer breaking baseball's color barrier in 1947. Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks said that he continues to consider the opportunity an honor.

"Jackie Robinson is somebody that, if you're a baseball fan, you know about Jackie Robinson," Hicks said. "It's definitely a day that me, CC and not only black players, but Latin players as well, all look forward to. It's definitely a special day."

Sabathia said that he started learning Robinson's story at a very young age; in fact, Sabathia cannot recall a time when he didn't know about Robinson. The information came from Sabathia's grandfather, who cheered Robinson's exploits from afar.

"My grandfather was a Dodgers fan," Sabathia said. "I think every African-American male growing up in that time was a Dodgers fan. He just talked about everything he went through. I grew up in Northern California and he was a Brooklyn Dodgers, L.A. Dodgers fan, because of Jackie."

MLB Tonight: Playing like Jackie

Hicks said that his father, Joe, taught him about the importance of Robinson breaking the color barrier. The elder Hicks played in the Padres organization as a Minor Leaguer in the late 1970s; Hicks has also delved deeper into history by visiting the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.

"It's just an honor to wear this number," Hicks said. "All the sacrifices and things that he had to do, especially for African-Americans, we really appreciate the things that he had to deal with and sacrifice in order to play this game. It just means a lot."

Hicks and Sabathia both applauded the 2013 film "42," which tells Robinson's story while largely focusing on his 1947 season.

"I thought they did a good job without being too harsh," Sabathia said. "Obviously it could have been harsher, but it was good because I was able to take my 10-year-old son at the time to see it. He knew about the Negro Leagues and all that stuff before; he has a mural of Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson on the wall of his room. We started him early."

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