ST. LOUIS -- The magnitude of the opportunity struck Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton on Monday, when a Brewers clubhouse attendant hung a jersey in Broxton's locker with No. 42 stitched on the back. It was prepared in advance of Friday, when players and coaches throughout the game will don those digits on the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier.
Broxton grew up in Florida watching Jackie Robinson Day festivities on television. Now, he's part of it.
"I was like, 'Wow, this is actually going to happen,'" Broxton said. "This is my first time being able to wear that number, and it means a lot to me because I'm a black American, and he paved the way for all of us. Without him, I probably wouldn't be in this spot."
With left-hander Jeff Locke on the mound for the Pirates on Friday night at PNC Park, Broxton has a chance to be in the Brewers' starting lineup despite a season-opening slump that grew on Thursday to 0-for-14 with 10 strikeouts in a 7-0 loss to the Cardinals.
Some of Broxton's African-American teammates have already experienced Jackie Robinson Days in the Major Leagues, from first baseman Chris Carter to relievers Jeremy Jeffress and Sam Freeman. It is a particularly meaningful day for Brewers hitting coach Darnell Coles, who nearly followed in Robinson's footsteps at UCLA.
"I was a person that had an opportunity to have a Fulbright scholarship to go to UCLA, and he was one of the reasons why," said Coles, who passed on that scholarship to sign with the Mariners instead. "So any and everything that has to do with 42, I'm appreciative of. I distinctly know the meaning behind it."
Broxton embraced baseball in part because he liked being different than his brother, who was drawn along with other kids to basketball and football. Keon felt the pull from those sports as well, but also dabbled in competitive skateboarding before realizing he may have a professional future in baseball, and committing to the sport full-time.
When he returns home, Broxton sees baseball gaining a greater following among African-American kids.
"I really do think it's growing year by year now," he said. "I see a lot more kids trying to play baseball. I think it's really good for the United States in general. People should be open to all things, not just to what you're accustomed to. Not just to basketball.
"The world's got a lot to offer. That's why I've always been open to different things."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.