All the players throughout baseball will wear #42 this evening as it was on this date, April 15th of 1947, that Jackie Robinson played his first game in the Major Leagues, breaking the color barrier.

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“It’s awesome to pay homage to a person and so many people who played a part in the game taking another step, bringing people together and bring the country together and being able to enjoy something, have something in common,” said St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward.

Jackie Robinson-Stan Musial“It was one of the first books that I read,” shared Heyward of learning about Robinson as a child. “A story of his life–what he went through, his family, him going to UCLA, Branch Rickey, and then the rest of his teammates kind of taking part in–not battle, but significant movement that they all put together for us to move forward as a nation and enjoy something together.”

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Major League Baseball began the tradition of honoring Robinson in 2004. According to a study conducted by USA Today, only 7.8% of the 868 players in MLB are African-American. However, that number also represents a leveling of the statistic instead of a continued decline the game has seen over the last several years.

“There were times that the Braves didn’t have African-Americans on the team either, so for me it’s nothing new,” pointed out Heyward, who understood that his perspective would be sought out as the only African-American on the St. Louis Cardinals active roster.

And though he hasn’t been able to do much so far in the St. Louis community, Jason also understands that he provides a connection for some fans to the game that otherwise might not be there.

“I feel like naturally, that’s going to happen,” explained Heyward. “Influence is huge. What you see is going to be something that’s going to influence you the majority of anything. People can talk about whatever but if you see people like yourself playing one sport or doing one thing, whatever it is–whether it’s color, whether it’s people your age, whatever people are going to notice.”

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