Wearing No. 42 special for Stroman

Blue Jays right-hander wishes he was on the mound for Jackie Robinson Day

Wearing No. 42 special for Stroman

BOSTON -- For the first time in his career, Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman was in a Major League uniform wearing No. 42 Friday on Jackie Robinson Day.

"It means a lot for me," Stroman said. "I'm African-American, so without his efforts, who knows. He was the guy who paved the way, who integrated baseball. I couldn't be more thankful for anybody than Jackie Robinson. Without him, arguably you could say I wouldn't be in the position I am today. So I'm extremely thankful to wear 42 on his special day."

Stroman made his big league debut more than 67 years after Robinson. He was born in 1991, almost 19 years after Robinson's death at the age of 53 in 1972. But Robinson's legacy is not lost on the 24-year-old right-hander.

"I knew a pretty good amount about him," Stroman said. "Actually, I did a couple of book reports and school projects on him growing up. I know he went to UCLA. I knew he was a several-sport athlete. I knew his upbringing and his background. I've always been pretty in-tune with his career and what he did and just thankful for him."

Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale, 54, became very familiar with Robinson and his legacy at a young age.

"Absolutely," Hale said. "My family, my dad talked about him. I definitely was aware. I had a very good situation growing up in Chicago where there were two baseball teams, the Cubs and the White Sox. So we always heard baseball. So, listening to the games, watching the games, a story would come up about him. So, yeah, I was definitely aware of him growing up."

It's important for baseball to recognize Robinson's legacy, Hale believes.

"It's a special day, no doubt," he said. "Because I think it reflects more than just the impact he had on society. There are a number of people in our lifetime who transcend and can change a large group of people, change society. Wearing the jersey, I thought more about that rather than just the baseball player that he was, but the effect that he had on society."

Both Hale and Stroman are happy that Robinson's legacy is being recognized and honored by the current generation of players.

"I think it's talked about -- as it should be -- as much as it is for that reason, because it was pretty important historically," Stroman said. "And I think guys know the importance he has, not only in the game of baseball, but just in life in general. So everyone's thankful, I think, of his efforts. It's just a special day to recognize him."

Just one thing would have made this year's celebration of Robinson's life more special for Stroman.

"First time in the Major Leagues for Jackie Robinson Day, [wearing] 42," Stroman said. "I wish I could have pitched on that day. That would have been cool."

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