Members of the local high school baseball and softball teams wear the “42” jerseys and line up for “The National Anthem’’ prior to their games on Jackie Robinson Day at the Reds Youth Academy. Photo by Jarrod Rollins
By Jarrod Rollins
All around the game of baseball, April 15 is celebrated each year to mark the day when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier and became the first African American to play in the major leagues.
Here in the Queen City, this landmark day was honored on Saturday, April 13, with a day full of baseball and softball action at the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy in Roselawn. The six games were played as part of the annual Skyline Chili Reds Futures High School Showcase and featured among them seven teams from Cincinnati Public Schools, including Aiken, Gamble Montessori, Hughes, Oyler, Riverview East, Shroder and Woodward.
What made this year’s Jackie Robinson Day festivities even more special was that the teams competed in custom jerseys wearing Robinson’s number 42, mirroring the tribute Major League Baseball has exhibited for Robinson since 2009.
“Jackie Robinson paved the way and gave us the heart to get out on the field and play the game the way he did,” said Erika Smith, softball coach for Woodward High School. “We really appreciate being here and our girls are so excited to be a part of it.”
Ceremonies took place before the games started to honor Robinson’s legacy and give everyone a chance to reflect on the true meaning of this anniversary.
“Today’s ceremonies exemplify the body of work of Jackie Robinson and how it’s still impacting people across this country,” said Marlon Styles Sr., a Reds’ scout and Aiken High School alum. “I can’t thank the Reds enough for their constant way of showing the community how committed they are to our urban youth and youth all over the city and surrounding area. It’s important for people to understand what kind of impact this organization is making not only on the high school level, but on the youth level, also.”
The morning ceremonies that kicked off Jackie Robinson Day included tributes to Reds legends Frank Robinson and Chuck Harmon, both of whom passed away recently. Harmon’s son, Charlie, took part in the ceremony and was joined by his sister, Cheryl, and son, Chas. Harmon became the first Black player in Reds history in 1954.
The ceremony also featured a tribute to the African American-led African American Capital Enterprises, LLC, (AACE), one of the first minority-based shareholder groups in American sports history formed by a group of local African American business leaders in 2006 when the Castellini and Williams families purchased the Reds.
“Seeing the youth resurrect this ‘42’ and understand the messaging behind it is a powerful message to not only sports, but to this community,” said Carl Satterwhite, an AACE group member and leader. “As that permeates other schools and people start to take the legacy of Jackie Robinson into it, it’s going to continue create a wave. And that wave will continue to change minds and behaviors one family at a time. This is an awesome thing to witness.”