Rays honor Robinson with multi-day tribute

Rays honor Robinson with multi-day tribute

ST. PETERSBURG -- The number 42 reigned supreme in dugouts throughout Major League baseball on Friday in celebration of Jackie Robinson Day, and Tropicana Field was no exception.

The Rays took the festivities a step further in their tribute to the 69th anniversary of Robinson's historic breaking of Major League Baseball's color barrier during their 1-0 loss to the White Sox.

Not only did both teams wear Robinson's number on their jerseys, but, during batting practice, Rays players donned a celebratory T-shirt. The honor carried over to the team's staff members, who were seen wearing the shirts as well.

The Rays have enjoyed celebrating the historic milestone each season since 2008, and this year they implemented a few new wrinkles.

The team offered a discount of two tickets for $42 for Friday's series opener versus the White Sox. The celebration began with a a special pregame presentation which saw nine community leaders represent Robinson's nine core values.

The Rays Baseball Foundation teamed up with The Poynter Institute to support its drive to help middle school-aged boys improve their life skills and their grades in the classroom. The national anthem was sung by the Arts Conservatory for Teens while Emery Ivery of the United Way Suncoast delivered the first pitch.

An emotional pregame tribute was played on the Jumbotron, which included a poignant speech from Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson.

Rays honor community leaders

The tributes to Robinson won't end on Friday, as the Rays plan to carry the celebration over to the weekend. The team will host a free baseball clinic on Saturday for Burg Baseball at Tropicana Field and community service projects at the Midtown facility of the St. Petersburg Police Athletic League (PAL) in St. Petersburg and Rey Park in West Tampa from 9 a.m. to noon. Several Rays staff and community volunteers will be on hand at both locations.

The day also meant a lot to the players, especially noted baseball historian and Rays ace Chris Archer.

"Wearing No. 42 and playing, I don't think it gets any more special, especially for me," Archer said. "Just knowing not only what he did for baseball, but what he did for the civil rights movement as a whole."

Archer thanks Jackie Robinson

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