WASHINGTON -- The Nationals announced that first baseman Dmitri Young will wear No. 42 on April 15 when they play the Mets at Shea Stadium. Young's tribute is a byproduct of Commissioner Bud Selig's announcement on Wednesday that players would be invited to honor the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's entry into Major League Baseball by wearing Robinson's retired No. 42 for one day.
Manager Manny Acta and general manager Jim Bowden approached Young about wearing the number. Young didn't hesitate and agreed to honor Robinson. Had Young turned it down, Acta would have worn the No. 42.
Young, a baseball history buff, was almost speechless about wearing the uniform. Like Robinson, Young grew up in Los Angeles and has been aware of Robinson's struggles for years.
"It's too bad you can't print facial expressions. I'm in awe. It's like being king for a day," Young said. "He is part of American history, forget baseball history. He was even part of the civil rights movement.
"I'm overwhelmed. You could almost break down in tears. It's one of the biggest honors you could have. I hope they don't ask for the jersey back."
Robinson burst onto the scene in 1947, breaking baseball's color barrier and bringing the Negro Leagues' electrifying style of play to the big leagues. He quickly became one of the game's top draws, the game's most daring baserunner and, most importantly, a symbol of hope to millions of Americans. Playing the role of catalyst, the Brooklyn Dodgers won six pennants in Robinson's 10 seasons. He was named National League MVP in 1949.
Young said he would not have been able to handle the racial slurs that Robinson endured during his career and believes that Robinson was the right guy to break the color barrier.
"It takes a tremendous man to be able to tolerate what he tolerated," Young said. "He put things on the back burner and kept his focus. I would not have had that kind of focus. ... That's why I think he was the one."
In his first season with the Nationals, Young's impact has been immediate. He is the team's leader in the locker room and on the field. In his first three games with Washington, Young hit .333 (4-for-12) with three RBIs, including the game-winning hit in the Nationals' first victory of the season on Wednesday.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.