Dodgers to unveil statue as part of 70th anniversary of breaking MLB's color barrier
By Mark Newman
Saturday will mark the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson taking the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers and breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier, and special activities planned for this Jackie Robinson Day will include the unveiling of the Hall of Famer's statue at Dodger Stadium, the introduction of a "Trailblazer Series" for girls, the annual donning of No. 42 by all active players and a lot of buzz about the upcoming Jackie Robinson Museum.
In what promises to be an emotional ceremony before the Dodgers' 9:15 p.m. ET home game against Arizona, Robinson's 94-year-old wife Rachel and their children Sharon and David will be on hand for the unveiling of a statue depicting Jackie in his rookie season of 1947, sliding into home plate in his signature style. Dodgers owner Magic Johnson, Dodgers President Stan Kasten, and legends Frank Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Tommy Lasorda, Don Newcombe and Vin Scully will among participants in that invitation-only dedication a few hours before the game. The first 40,000 fans in attendance will receive a replica Jackie Robinson statue, with seats available at dodgers.com/tickets.
As has been tradition each year since 2009, MLB will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day with all players and on-field personnel wearing the now-retired No. 42 during all Saturday games. One jersey will be signed by each member of every club and auctioned live on Saturday at MLB.com/42jersey, with proceeds benefitting the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
All clubs playing at home on Saturday will commemorate Jackie Robinson Day with special on-field pregame ceremonies in their ballparks. Home clubs will feature Jackie Robinson Day jeweled bases and lineup cards.
MLB clubs will host more than 50 Jackie Robinson Foundation scholars and alumni for ceremonies across the league. With support from donors like MLB and clubs, the JRF Scholarship Program provides four years of financial assistance and direct program services annually to 225 highly motivated students attending 100 colleges and universities across the country, and it has developed a mentoring curriculum to reach a broad cohort of college students beyond its core Jackie Scholars.
The Foundation's unique program offers comprehensive support that includes internship and permanent job placement; curriculum and career guidance; one-on-one mentoring; and leadership and practical life skills training. The Jackie Robinson Foundation's celebrated, hands-on approach has resulted in a consistent, nearly 100-percent graduation rate throughout its 44-year history.
Groundbreaking for the Jackie Robinson Museum will begin this spring, as announced at last month's JRF awards dinner. MLB donated $1 million toward those fundraising efforts, as part of its renewed partnership.
MLB and USA Baseball recently announced the launch of the inaugural Trailblazer Series, a first-of-its-kind girls baseball tournament hosted in conjunction with Jackie Robinson Day. About 100 girls, ages 16 and under, representing 20 states across the country as well as Washington, D.C., and Canada, will participate in the three-day tournament in the greater Los Angeles area from Thursday through Saturday.
Girls playing in the Trailblazer Series will be divided into two age divisions, 16U and 12U, and have been placed onto teams by random selection. They will be coached by some of the nation's top female baseball coaches and players, including those from USA Baseball's Women's National Team. Additional activities for Trailblazer Series participants will include non-game instruction from the coaches, appearances by special guests connected to baseball, and attending Jackie Robinson Day celebrations at Dodger Stadium. The entire event is completely expense-free for participants.
In addition to the weekend's celebration of women in baseball, USA Baseball's National Member Organizations, which sanction leagues across the country and around the world, reaffirmed their commitment to providing girls opportunities to participate in their baseball leagues. Leaders at AABC, American Legion, Babe Ruth League, Dixie Boys and Majors, Dixie Youth, Little League International, NABF, NFHS, PONY, USSSA and MLB's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program are all working toward growing the opportunities afforded to girls in the game.
"In memory of Jackie Robinson, Major League Baseball is committed to making our sport accessible and inclusive for all those who want to play, coach or participate," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "MLB and USA Baseball have listened to the growing demand for girls' and women's baseball by launching this unprecedented event. We will be proud to do so on the most meaningful date on our calendar, Jackie Robinson Day, at our Youth Academy in Compton. It is our honor to support trailblazing young women who will be outstanding representatives of their communities."
MLB and several clubs are also announcing the 2017 recipients of the "Jackie Robinson Most Valuable Diverse Business Partner Award" (MVDBP), which is given on an annual basis, in recognition of Jackie Robinson Day, to minority-owned, women-owned and other diverse-owned businesses and organizations whose work reflects the character and commitment to the excellence of Robinson's legacy. Eight clubs have named 11 companies as MVDBP Award recipients, including the following: Alpha Insulation (Braves), C. Beene & Associates (Tigers), C&G Construction Supply (Cubs), Continental Painting & Decorating (Cubs), Contour (Mariners), Eckert Welding (Reds), KVA Promotions (Padres), Lumi Organics (Pirates), PromoShop (Indians), Southern Door (Braves) and Terra Engineering (Cubs).
The Diverse Business Partners program is the leading, economically driven business initiative designed to cultivate new and existing partnerships with diverse-owned businesses by increasing opportunities for them to participate in the procurement activities of MLB. MLB has spent more than $1 billion with diverse businesses since the program was created.
MLB Network is televising a variety of programming this weekend marking Jackie Robinson Day, including a new episode of "Play Ball," a weekly player interview and demonstration show for kids, at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday. It will include an introduction to Robinson's life, plus commentary on his playing style from Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton. MLB Network will provide all-day coverage of the various tributes to Robinson as well as live look-ins and highlights at 4 p.m. ET on "MLB Tonight," followed by coverage of the D-backs-Dodgers game.
In a new program on Sunday, current Major Leaguers Chris Archer, Mychal Givens, Josh Harrison, Adam Jones, Andrew McCutchen, Marcus Stroman and Tony Reagins, MLB's senior vice president of youth programs, will discuss Robinson's lasting impact and the current state of the game. That will air in the show "MLB Network Roundtable -- Jackie Robinson: 70 Years Later," hosted by Harold Reynolds.
MLB.com will have complete coverage of the day's events from each ballpark, across all of its platforms. Jackie Robinson Day will be supported across social media again with its official hashtag #Jackie42.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.