Today is arguably one of my favorite days in baseball, if not in life. I love that for a single day, baseball fans can set aside even a small part of themselves, and share in a mutual respect and love for a great game and a great man. It’s one of the few days each year that give me hope that our country isn’t made up of completely of ignorance and hatred. I mean, think about it, every single MLB team (and probably a lot of others) recognize this day and put each and every player out there in the same number. What greater way can a game signify to their fans that we really are “one” than by making everyone the same…even if just for one day. It’s a great statement to baseball, younger generations, and the entire country.
Even though today is known as “Jackie Robinson” Day, the best part is that most people recognize it’s about so much more than just Jackie Robinson. It’s about Robinson, Larry Doby, Monte Irvin, and Ernie Banks. It’s about Earl Lloyd, Kenny Washington and Willie O’Ree. It’s about Jason Collins, Michael Sam, and Derrick Gordon. It’s about equality and it’s about making sure every sport (and really anything else) no longer cares about someone’s race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.
It’s also about the courage to step out and be the “first.” So while today isn’t entirely about “just” Jackie Robinson, I love that we celebrate him. Sure, maybe a number of other players would have been willing. It could have been Monte Irvin for that matter. But the burden was put on Robinson, and he carried it. He endured through an impossible situation in a time far different from most any discrimination we face today. He could have easily failed and set back the process of integration for years on end.
But he didn’t fail. He succeeded in the best way possibly. Not only was he courageous enough to take on the challenge, he quickly shut his critics up by the fact that he was a superb baseball player. Had Robinson been an average player, his accomplishments would have still be great, but perhaps not as meaningful or impactful.
But Robinson wasn’t average.
His skills weren’t average.
His courage wasn’t average.
Today is not average.
Today, April 15th, Jackie Robinson Day, is great, like the man we honor on it.