Cutch, Harrison honor Jackie with special cleats

Cutch, Harrison honor Jackie with special cleats

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates joined Major League Baseball in celebrating Jackie Robinson Day on Friday night at PNC Park. Everyone in a Pirates or Brewers uniform wore the No. 42, and Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison took it a step farther with their footwear.

McCutchen and Harrison sported custom cleats to honor Robinson on the 69th anniversary of the day he broke baseball's color barrier.

McCutchen wore a pair of striped, black Nikes that shine with gold on the bottom. On the side of each shoe is a bright blue "42," Robinson's number.

Harrison received a pair of black-and-white cleats with Robinson's name, a photo and a few of his accomplishments written, in a newspaper-style headline format, all over them.

The significance of this annual event in baseball isn't lost on either player.

"He's the reason why I'm playing this game," McCutchen said. "To be wearing cleats with No. 42 on it and a jersey with 42 on my back, it means a heck of a lot to me. We only do it one time a year, so I definitely cherish it.

"This is something that needs to be addressed on the daily. If it wasn't for him, who knows where we'd be? ... It's good that we're able to celebrate it."

In addition to recognizing Robinson's incredible cultural impact, McCutchen hopes fans recognize how Robinson changed the game itself.

"He used his speed. He used his athletic ability in the game," McCutchen said. "Not only did he break the color barrier, but he broke the barrier of the game of baseball."

Every April 15, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle looks for something he didn't previously know about Robinson to further expand his knowledge of one of baseball's most important figures.

"This isn't an African-American celebration. This is an opening of doors for everybody," Hurdle said. "I still believe firmly there's going to be a day where there's going to be a female playing in the big leagues. Where it goes, I don't know. I don't believe I'll be in the dugout to see it.

"I love the way [MLB Commissioner Rob] Manfred has taken the game and tried to plug it back into some areas. I love it, because there's so much fun generationally speaking for a father and son or daughter, young kids to come out. We see so many more young kids now at the park than we did when I first got here. The old school bus test, it's crazy different than it was in 2011. You see kids now in baseball season, to be a part of it.

"I think it's up to us to keep it fresh. One of the things this whole day's about for me is it's not up to somebody else to keep it fresh. Take the responsibility upon yourself to keep it fresh and share that newness with somebody else. That's what I'm trying to do."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.