© 2009 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

01/19/09 11:53 AM EST

Obama inauguration breaking barriers

Like Hank and Jackie in baseball, 44th president a trailblazer

Jackie Robinson did it by walking out onto a Major League Baseball diamond in New York for a regular-season game.

"There's not an American in this country free until every one of us is free," he said.

Hank Aaron did it by pulling an Al Downing pitch over the wall in left field for his 715th career home run, one more than Babe Ruth.

"I don't want them to forget Ruth, I just want them to remember me," he said.

Barack Obama did it by surpassing 270 projected electorate votes on Nov. 4, 2008, as West Coast polls closed and the one-time Confederate capital of Virginia was called.

"Because of what we did on this day, in this election, in this defining moment, change has come to America," he said.

Barriers break. Times change. Dreams come true.

The United States of America elected Obama as its 44th president. It is a just and poetic number, worn by Aaron on that day in 1974, when an African-American man overcame hate and bigotry to attain sports' most hallowed record.

"President Obama."

That's what he will become Tuesday upon inauguration -- the first African-American to assume the Oval Office. And then we can expect to see him come April, carrying out the traditional rite of a presidential first pitch. Most likely it will be on the first Monday, for a home game of his beloved White Sox. Perhaps it will be one week later, when the world champion Phillies visit the Nationals in the home opener at Washington.

Obama promised that "the road ahead will be long." For Jackie, it was long and lonely. For Hank, it was long and lonely. For America's president-elect, the challenges are enormous, but the majority of people are with him. That much was evident in the celebration bashes across the land this past November, including the one at Grant Park in Chicago where Obama acknowledged the will of a nation. He said this:

Barack Obama

"Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America -- I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you -- we as a people will get there."

Here we are, a dream come true for so many.

That's what it was for Jackie when he started for the Brooklyn Dodgers in a white man's game in April of 1947.

That's what it was for Hank when he endured death threats and went yard at old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in April of 1974.

That's what it will be for Obama and most of the country come Tuesday.

Change is coming. President-elect Obama said so, and the people spoke with him.

"It's been a long time coming," Obama said on election night. "Because of what we did on this day, in this election, in this defining moment, change has come to America."

Jackie brought it.

Hank brought it.

Obama brings it now.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.