42: Shaun Kippins
As a baseball fan, seeing every Major League Baseball player wearing 42 on their jersey on April 15 is incredibly special. It’s a gesture that shows how important Jackie Robinson was to the game of baseball. Of course, he was a phenomenal player who earned numerous honors, including a Rookie of the Year award and an MVP, but his impact on the game stretched far beyond the field of play. Being the first African American to play in the Majors was clearly a testament to his playing abilities. But beyond that, his character as both a player and a person is what made him the iconic figure that he is today. He was a pioneer who paved the way for every player of color who inherently walked in his footsteps.
For me, Jackie Robinson was one of my earliest idols. Right around the same time I started to really get into playing baseball, I read a book in school about the friendship between Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson. It had a profound effect on me as a young kid. It was one of the first times I really asked my mother about the struggles of African Americans at that time. And as I’m sure it was for everyone who has heard his story, it motivated me. I wanted to not only be the best baseball player I could be, but I always strived to do so with class and poise, like Jackie did. I even took it to the point of attempting a steal of home in Little League, against my coach’s wishes.
Most of all, I see the show of respect for Jackie Robinson every April 15 as a huge “Thank You" from all of Major League Baseball for helping to make the game, and the world, that much better.