Rays to wear Robinson's number
Team collectively decides to don No. 42 on Jackie's Day
ST. PETERSBURG -- With the mantra of "We are one team" echoing throughout the Rays organization this year, the club decided prior to Wednesday's game to collectively wear jersey No. 42 to honor the baseball legend on Jackie Robinson Day.
As in previous years, Major League Baseball will allow players to wear Robinson's number on April 15, but the Rays took it one step further, by agreeing to all sport No. 42.
"If we are the only team to do it, then that would be cool," said manager Joe Maddon.
Maddon said on the team's recent visit to Yankee Stadium, he saw a picture of Robinson in the manager's office that was a perfect summation of the legend's impact.
"There's a big poster, and under it they have the word courage, and the definition of courage," Maddon said. "That's what it means to me."
Right-hander Edwin Jackson echoed the sentiment, saying it was a symbolic statement that helped honor Robinson's fortitude.
"As a person, he pretty much stuck his neck out on the chopping block to play and to get everyone else to let him play," Jackson said. "It's definitely an honor and a number I will wear proudly."
Introduced in 2004, Jackie Robinson Day was established to honor Robinson's legacy as the first African-American player to break the Major League color barrier. Robinson played his first Major League game at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947, as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson's uniform number 42 was retired throughout the Major Leagues in 1997.
"He's definitely an icon -- he represents something that is huge in this country, which is equality," Carlos Pena said. "What he did on the field in addition to his character, what he was all about ... as I read more about him, I'm like, 'You know what? This guy was a good player, but he was strong up here and here,'" Pena said, pointing to his head and his heart.
While each Major League player has had the option to wear No. 42, the Rays decided during a meeting in the outfield on Wednesday to honor Robinson's enduring impact on baseball as a team.
"I think [Al] Reyes actually said it -- 'Let's all wear 42,' and no one had any objections to it," Pena said.
"You want to honor him, [but] sometimes you say, 'Am I even allowed to wear this uniform? Am I even worthy?' But when you are doing this as a team, it has so much more meaning," he added.
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.