LOS ANGELES – Not one to lift his head and look at all the activity around him, new Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he most definitely will soak in the atmosphere Friday.
Roberts, the Dodgers' first African-American manager, is anticipating his first Jackie Robinson Day as the man in the head chair. That it comes as a member of the Dodgers organization makes it that much more special.
“I think that I am a little bit, to a fault, not taking certain moments in, but I think I will make a conscious effort [Friday] to understand and take in the scope and the magnitude,” Roberts said. “It’s a big deal. Jackie has obviously impacted me and many others. I think that I’m going to take some extra time to reflect for sure.”
Major League Baseball started the annual day as a way to honor the accomplishments of the former Brooklyn Dodger who broke the color barrier in baseball during the 1947 season. Every player on every team Friday will wear Robinson’s No. 42.
Roberts wore a No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day during his playing days and said those uniforms are stored in a “special place” in his home.
“Any time you put on that No. 42 jersey you feel a little bit more empowered and your chest sticks out a little and there is a little sense of pride,” Roberts said. “I might even go with the high pants.”
Another player proud to take part in his first Jackie Robinson Day is Japan native Kenta Maeda.
“In Japan they actually show the No. 42 event,” Maeda said through an interpreter. “It’s actually big news in Japan that all the major league players wear No. 42.”
Maeda said he has been absorbing MLB history, and Robinson’s legacy is something he has studied.
“I’ve seen the No. 42 in use and know a little bit about Jackie Robinson, so I am looking forward to the opportunity of wearing No. 42,” Maeda said.
That it’s Jackie Robinson Day will make it even better for Roberts, who was listening to Don Newcombe stories about Robinson as recently as Wednesday.
“[Newcombe] was his roommate,” Roberts said. “As much as [Newcombe] wants to talk about Jackie and his story, and what he went through, and Maury [Wills] sharing stories, Manny Mota, I’ll listen. Just to be back in a Dodgers uniform and in this capacity, to have these guys who I have known for a decade and sometimes even hear the same stories, that’s what’s great about it. It’s like it’s the first time I’ve ever heard them. But [Friday] will be a special day for sure.”