04/16/09 12:43 AM ET
Manuel uses simple act to pay tribute
Jackie Robinson Day occurs every day for Mets skipper
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
"The only reason I wear my pants high is Jackie Robinson," Manuel said.
"So for me to be managing at the Major League level on a day that recognizes a hero, it's a special day. But every day for me is a Jackie Robinson Day."
For the rest of the Mets -- and Major League Baseball as a whole -- Wednesday's game was an opportunity to honor the magnitude of Robinson's legacy.
Introduced in 2004, Jackie Robinson Day was created to honor the enduring impact of Robinson and his legacy as the first African-American player to break the Major League color barrier. Robinson played his first Major League game at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947, as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Robinson breaking the Major League color barrier in 1997, Robinson's uniform number 42 was retired throughout the Major Leagues.
In addition to Citi Field's Jackie Robinson Rotunda dedication ceremony earlier in the afternoon, every member of the Mets wore Robinson's No. 42.
"It's special," outfielder Jeremy Reed said. "It really is."
"I know people of [African-American heritage] understand," Reed said. "But for me, it means just as much because I feel like everybody is equal. Everybody deserves the same opportunity and the same chance. And what he did for not only the game but other areas of the world, is unbelievable and amazing."
Robinson's memory lives on today in initiatives such as the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which was founded by his widow, Rachel Robinson, in 1973 to provide education and leadership development opportunities for minority students with strong capabilities but limited financial resources. The foundation also supports Breaking Barriers, which utilizes baseball-themed activities to reinforce literacy skills, mathematics, science and social history in addition to addressing critical issues of character development, such as conflict resolution and self-esteem.
Rachel Robinson was at Citi Field to help commemorate the event and was joined by her daughter Sharon and son David.
Sharon, who joked earlier in the day that she only wanted sunshine and a successful first-pitch toss, got a rousing welcome from the crowd of 35,581.
"It's a changing point in history that we should never forget," Sharon Robinson said. "It is important to celebrate it and remind all of us that we are a stronger baseball game, a stronger country and a stronger world when we work together and win."
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.