Revere, Maybin reflect on Black History Month

Angels outfielders inspired by Jackie Robinson, proud to carry on his legacy

Revere, Maybin reflect on Black History Month

Angels outfielder Ben Revere is a history buff.

In high school, he loved taking courses on African-American history and learning about iconic figures such as Rosa Parks and Malcolm X. In his native Atlanta, Revere toured the house where Martin Luther King Jr. was born and explored the neighborhood where the famed civil rights leader grew up. In Washington, D.C., he visited the Lincoln Memorial, the site of King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

But his most cherished history lessons came via his great-grandmother. When Revere was 12, his great-grandmother would often tell him stories about seeing Jackie Robinson play baseball.

"That was something special, her telling me about [him] when I was a little kid," Revere said. "Because without him, I wouldn't be where I'm at today."

Baseball was already Revere's preferred sport, but hearing about the hardships Robinson endured en route to breaking baseball's color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers only motivated him further and helped stoke his dream of pursuing the sport professionally.

"That's kind of just been the fire in my soul," Revere said. "I'm not going to be outworked. I'm not going to be outplayed. I want to make Jackie Robinson proud."

February is Black History Month, a time to recognize the contributions and struggles of African-Americans in the United States on the baseball diamond and beyond.

"We get to celebrate our ancestry and the things that they were able to go through and overcome," outfielder Cameron Maybin said. "It gives the African-American community a chance to just celebrate our accomplishments as a whole, our perseverance as a whole."

Thanks to Robinson and other trailblazers, Major League Baseball has a proud tradition of African-American players who left their mark on the game and helped open doors for others. Despite this legacy, the prominence of African-American ballplayers has been on the decline in recent years. According to a study by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, only 8.3 percent of players on 2016 Opening Day rosters identified as African-American, a significant drop-off from the all-time high of 19 percent in 1975.

Major League Baseball has tried to combat this trend by investing in programs such as Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), creating urban academies and hosting showcases for top minority players.

"They do a phenomenal job with that," Revere said.

But Maybin believes that the current generation of African-American stars also have a responsibility to be advocates for the game.

"I think we have to kind of create that awareness," Maybin said. "We have to get out there and talk to kids and the parents as well and let them know the character-building skills that baseball gives you. It teaches you how to take the good with the ugly and it builds character. So it's not just on Major League Baseball, but also on the African-American players that are playing the game, whether it's Minor Leagues or the Major Leagues. We have to be the voices for Major League Baseball. I think that's where it starts."

Maybin played his part by hosting over 200 kids in a free baseball clinic in his hometown of Asheville, N.C., last month. He estimated that over half of the participants in the inaugural Maybin Mission Youth Camp were African-American.

"It was awesome," Maybin said, "It really was a great opportunity for me to talk to those kids and pass something along. If you can reach just a handful of them, they may be able to reach a handful of their friends.

"To have that type of impact on the African-American youth -- it's because of those guys [like Robinson]. It's because of the legacy that they created that I am able to continue to try to give back and acknowledge their accomplishments and the hardships that they had to go through and let the younger generation know that there are still hardships that we will have to face, but they're all overcome-able. Everything is achievable, everything is attainable. This is about sharing the legacy of so many people who fought for equal rights and equality. I'm proud to be a part of that. 

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.