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Nats' Young gets to honor Robinson

Nats' Young gets to honor Robinson

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals paid homage to baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson before Monday night's game against the Braves at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. They had a video tribute to the Hall of Famer and a Jackie Robinson scholars presentation.

Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young made his own tribute to Robinson by wearing Robinson's No. 42.

The Nationals were supposed to be part of the Mets' planned celebration of the 60th anniversary of Robinson's entrance into the big leagues at Shea Stadium on Sunday afternoon, but the game was postponed because of rain. The Nationals then spent all of Sunday afternoon planning their own ceremony for Robinson.

At first, Young thought he wasn't going to wear the special uniform at all, but was pleased to find out he could be part of the tribute a day later.

"I'm happy. I thought that you could wear the uniform [only] on April 15th for Jackie Robinson Day. I am happy that it was extended," said Young, who usually wears No. 21. "It is important because everyone gets to represent Jackie Robinson in their own special way. We didn't want to get excluded from that. I looked at the jersey today., and it's real nice."

Young, a baseball history buff, grew up in Los Angeles, just like Robinson, and has been aware of Robinson's struggles for years. Young said he recently wondered if he could handle racial strife that Robinson endured.

"Most of the things that he went through, I wouldn't have been able to do it," Young said. "He went through so much on a daily basis, every 24-hour period. He [woke] up with it, [went] to sleep with it. He had to endure other teams, fans, his own fans, his own teammates. It was like, 'Did he have a true friend?' For him to be able to endure all that and be revered like he is today, God bless him."

Reliever Ray King found it ironic that on the day the Nationals paid tribute to Robinson, Young was to be the only African American in the starting lineup -- on both the Braves and Nationals -- on Monday. Atlanta center fielder Andruw Jones, a native of Curacao who wore No. 42 for the Braves on Sunday, was in the lineup.

"It's going to be really like Jackie, because no one is going to wear that No. 42 today -- it's only Dmitri," King said. "So when you look out on that field, it's going to be one guy with No. 42. If you look technically at it, Dmitri is the only African American in the lineup."

After Monday's game, Young's uniform will be donated to an auction benefiting the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

"Instead of griping about not keeping it, it is going to a good cause. At least it's going somewhere better than my wall," Young said.

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

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