Braves honor Robinson on Saturday
Legacy, essay winners celebrated in pregame ceremony
ATLANTA -- While the other cities in Major League Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, the actual day commemorating the 61st anniversary of the Dodgers second baseman's historic Major League debut, the Atlanta Braves would not be denied in recognizing a favorite son in their own special way.
"It is special," said Robinson's daughter, Sharon. "My father was born in Cairo, Ga. He actually left when he was six months old, but this is officially his home state. So I'm thrilled to be able to be here with the Atlanta Braves on Jackie Robinson Day."
Prior to Saturday afternoon's game with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Braves celebrated the life and legacy of Robinson.
Robinson's life and impact on baseball were celebrated with a tribute video, featuring prominent African-American Major Leaguers Dontrelle Willis of the Tigers and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.
Just as Robinson's impact extended beyond the playing field, so did the recognition of the work of the foundation that bears his name. The Braves saluted seven youngsters, who were personally impacted.
Mauri Robinson, Danielle McKinley, Michael Fullilove and Fred Shelton III joined Sharon on the field as Jackie Robinson Foundation scholars, while grade-schoolers Maya Scott, Jared Allen, and Raymond Butler, were honored for their winning entries in the "Breaking Barriers" essay contest.
The essay winners included a fourth-grader, who has overcome optic-nerve damage to become one of his classes top readers, a fifth-grader who has dealt with autism, and a seventh-grader, one of a scant few African-American at her school and who was falsely accused of stealing, but handled the situation appropriately with the proper authorities and eventually cleared her name.
"We are in our 11th year," Robinson said. "Kids learn what an obstacle or barrier is and then we give them nine values that are associated with my dad's success on and off the field and it culminates in them writing an essay about a barrier that they've had to overcome."
Sharon believes that her father would be very proud of the work that her father's foundation is doing for kids of all ages.
"I think he would," she said. "We have the younger kids and we have the college-age and two of them are graduating. Just listening to their plans for the future speaks to the success of the Jackie Robinson program. They've started recruiting kids for the foundation, the breaking barriers program."
In addition to the on-field ceremony, other pregame festivities took place in Fan Plaza, featuring performances by the Southside High School drumline and the Parkside Elementary School dance team, "The Pandarettes."
The Braves will also host six students from Morehouse University's College of Journalism and give them the opportunity to interview Sharon Robinson and Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton. Each student will write about their experiences at Jackie Robinson Day and one article will be selected and published on Braves.com.
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.