Cameron proud to wear No. 42

Cameron proud to wear No. 42

SAN FRANCISCO -- No one had to ask Padres outfielder Mike Cameron on Wednesday if he wanted to wear uniform No. 42 on April 15 in honor of the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's Major League debut.

By the time Cameron pushed his way though the clubhouse doors at AT&T Park, he was already making plans for wearing Robinson's number when the Padres face the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in a game that will be televised by ESPN.

"I'm even going to chop my pants off and make them big and baggy," Cameron beamed several hours before the Padres faced the Giants in the second game of a three-game set. "I was watching some old tapes to see what I can do. ... Maybe wear my hat in my back pocket."

Earlier in the day, Commissioner Bud Selig gave permission to Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr. to wear Robinson's No. 42 on April 15. Selig expanded the gesture and extended an invitation to all teams to allow any of its players to only wear Robinson's number.

Enter Cameron.

"Mike will represent that number well," Padres manager Bud Black said. "I'm sure that who watches our game and sees Mike in that number will be happy that Mike is the one who chose to wear that number. I just know the respect he has among our players and coaches is extremely high and I know he has that respect throughout the game from ex-teammates and guys he's played with."

The idea first came to Cameron earlier Wednesday when watching baseball games from his hotel room in San Francisco. By the time he arrived at AT&T Park, he was already pondering a complete throwback uniform look.

"I was watching the games on MLB.com; they showed Junior asked the Commissioner if he could wear it," Cameron said. "I'm honored to have the opportunity to play this game. When everyone else is done, we'll be on Sunday night. It will be cool."

This won't be the first time Cameron has been associated with Robinson.

In 2004, on the 57th anniversary of Robinson's Major League debut, Cameron -- who was then a member of the New York Mets -- accompanied Robinson's wife, Rachel Robinson, to the field at Shea Stadium on Jackie Robinson Day.

Selig, Rachel Robinson and Mets players Tom Glavine and Cameron participated in that ceremony, in conjunction with which MLB made a $1 million presentation to Take the Field. That is a public-private partnership that is rebuilding the athletic facilities of New York City public schools.

Cameron has long pledged his support to increasing the visibility of the game to young, African-American children. He said he'll continue those efforts this season in San Diego, going as far to bringing inner-city children to games at PETCO Park.

"I think it's always good when you get a chance to look at it in a sense where the kids are able to see for themselves, not just see it on TV," Cameron said. "That's why I'm doing something really big in San Diego where I'm going to actually bring kids to the game so they can see what it's really, truly like."

Cameron bemoaned the lack of African-Americans in the game, a problem he said starts with today's youth. Cameron said there are too many distractions and baseball might not have the allure of basketball or football nor is it publicized as much.

"I just think that there's a lot of guys sitting at home that can be playing," Cameron said. "I don't know if the game is going a different direction, but everyone says Little League kids don't want to play. But when you grow up in the inner city where there's nowhere to play, it makes it a lot tougher. Just the times have changed."

Which is largely why Cameron made a beeline to the office of Padres clubhouse manager Brian Prilaman prior to Wednesday's game, telling him that he wanted to wear Robinson's number before any Padres officials asked if he was interested.

Wearing Robinson's uniform number -- and everything that it represents --- means that much to Cameron.

"Especially at a time where brothers are existent in the game," he said. "Whenever I get a chance to put on the jersey that this guy sacrificed so much for, laid the groundwork for and opened so many doors for me to get a chance to go out there and get an opportunity to showcase my talent and help my ballclub."

The national celebration of Jackie Robinson Day will take place at Dodger Stadium with an on-field ceremony prior to the game. Rachel Robinson, daughter Sharon Robinson and several of Jackie Robinson's former teammates will be on hand.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.