Gathright and fellow outfielder Jose Guillen will join manager Trey Hillman as Royals donning Robinson's retired number on April 15 at Seattle. That date marks the anniversary of Robinson breaking the Major Leagues' color barrier in 1947.
"For me, Jackie Robinson is the first black man I ever heard speak proper English and seem well-educated, so he did a lot for me," Gathright said. "He let me know there was a lot more out there in the world than just living in Mississippi in the woods.
"He brought baseball to me, was able to speak as a black man to me -- a lot of things. It was the way he was, and I respected him a lot."
Gathright, who was born in Hattiesburg, Miss., learned about Robinson while attending high school in Kenner, La.
"I had experienced a few things before but didn't know about different cultures and different people," Gathright said. "Finally, I started to learn that there's a lot more just by listening to this one man. He did a lot for me."
Gathright also recalled that his uncle furthered his education on the trailblazing star for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
"My uncle started showing me films about old black baseball players," Gathright said. "I really didn't know too much about baseball. I knew about football. I started watching that and then I started doing stuff on my own to find out about him and other black players."
Introduced in 2004, Jackie Robinson Day was created to honor the enduring impact of Jackie Robinson and his legacy as the first African-American player to break the Major League color barrier. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Robinson's debut, Robinson's No. 42 was retired throughout the Majors in 1997.
Robinson's memory lives on today in initiatives such as the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which was founded by his wife, Rachel Robinson, in 1973 to provide education and leadership development opportunities for minority students with strong capabilities but limited financial resources.
In addition, Breaking Barriers utilizes baseball-themed activities to reinforce literacy skills, mathematics, science and social history in addition to addressing critical issues of character development, such as conflict resolution and self-esteem.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.