Whether they play in the National League or the American League; infield or outfield; pitcher or catcher -- on April 15 every player in Major League Baseball dons the number 42.
Today marks the 64th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in professional baseball. He wore the iconic number 42 for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson was the trailblazer who opened the door for young people of all backgrounds the opportunity to play sports together at the highest level.
It was Major League Baseball great Ken Griffey Jr., a sports diplomat with the U.S. Department of State, who started the tradition of wearing the retired number 42 to honor Robinson on April 15.
Griffey, Jr. and several professional athletes continue Robinson's legacy of bringing people together through their work with the Department of State's sports diplomacy efforts. As current players headed to spring training earlier this year, Griffey, Jr. and Major League Baseball legend Barry Larkin headed overseas as sports diplomats to work with young people in the Philippines and South Korea. In fact, the United States' Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas greeted Griffey, Jr. on the diamond wearing a Dodgers 42 jersey during the March sports diplomacy exchange.
Also in March, former member of the Big Red Machine, Ken Griffey, Sr. worked with nine Honduran baseball coaches at spring training facilities in Arizona. From baseball clinics to conversations with refugees to activities with athletes with disabilities, these sports diplomats have taken Jackie Robinson's legacy global.
Through the work of the SportsUnited office in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, young people worldwide come together to learn about teamwork, bridging socioeconomic, physical, racial, and cultural differences to play a sport of their choice. So today, on April 15, the Department celebrates number 42's legacy and works to let the legacy live on through sports diplomacy efforts across the globe.
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