"Eventually, [baseball] was going to change, but it was going to take a special person to kick the door down," Rollins said. "He was the appointed one, and he did a [tremendous] job representing himself and African-Americans. He was called on for something special and he accomplished it."Introduced in 2004, Jackie Robinson Day was created to honor the enduring impact of Robinson and his legacy as the first African-American player to break the Major League color barrier. In honor of the 50th Anniversary in 1997, Robinson's uniform No. 42 was retired throughout the Major Leagues.
His memory lives 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.Another initiative, 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. "Jackie was more than just an athlete and more than just a baseball player," Rollins said. "He was a political figure. You can look at when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, and know how it affected African-Americans in America."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.