Since they weren’t playing baseball on April 15th, with Major League Baseball and much of the country shut down amidst the coronavirus pandemic, MLB moved Jackie Robinson Day to August 28th, which, the Washington Nationals’ mentioned in the pregame notes for last night’s game, “... is the anniversary of the March On Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, which the Robinson family (Jackie, Rachel and children) attended,” and, “... is also the date in 1945 when Robinson and Branch Rickey met to discuss his future as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers.”
Two years after that meeting, on April 15, 1947, Robinson debuted in the majors, breaking baseball’s color barrier.
Coming as it did after the Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies decided against playing their series finale in D.C. in the aftermath of the shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake by police this past Sunday and the protests which followed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said on Friday afternoon that he was happy that his club would be back on the field and playing on Jackie Robinson Day.
“4 Us 2 Remember” reminds us that Jackie Robinson’s legacy lives on through the players who proudly wear 42 and everyone who stands against injustice.— MLB (@MLB) August 28, 2020
Narrated by @MookieBetts pic.twitter.com/CZgyRLllby
“We want to play. We want to get on the field,” Martinez said before the series opener in Fenway Park.
“I talked about it yesterday. Special day today. I think us united on the baseball field would mean a lot to Jackie Robinson and his family.
“It’s what he would have wanted. So hopefully today we get a chance to go back out on the field and play baseball.”
There wasn’t, at least as was publicly disclosed, any consideration of not playing the first of three in Fenway Park, and Martinez, who’d had an emotional couple days this week, said he was excited to get back on the field and back to playing baseball.
“We had a meeting yesterday with the boys and after that, I told them I said, ‘Hey, you know we’re in a rough deal right now, we all get it, we understand,” Martinez recounted.
“Be mindful, be respectful of all your teammates, all your players, other members of our organization, but yet, let’s come back ready to play baseball tomorrow, that’s why we’re here. And let’s have fun. We’ll compete and have fun.
“Go out there and do your best, that’s all I can ask of these guys.
“Today they seem upbeat, they want to play, I talked to a lot of them, they just want to get going, and play, and hopefully continue to play this out for the rest of this year, so we’ll see what happens. But like I said earlier, we’re here, we’re ready to play, and hopefully we do play today.”
Doing so on Jackie Robinson Day meant even more.
“He’s — for us baseball players, he was the guy that united and started honestly what we call right now our brotherhood,” Martinez said, “...and he means a lot to this game and to just everybody in this country.
“We tip our hats off to Jackie and his family. He went through a lot, we all know that, and we respect him, we’ll always respect him, and thank you for what you’ve done because he opened up the door for a lot of us.”
Martinez’s club beat the Red Sox 10-2 in the first of three in Fenway.
“It felt good to play, especially on a day like today, considering what Jackie represented, his legacy,” Josh Harrison said after going 2 for 5 with a two-run home run in the win.
“I think it was a great day for us all to come back and play and represent him well.
“It started with the production that they showed on the scoreboard.
“A lot of us talked after that, and some guys had mentioned they hadn’t seen him speak outside of a baseball uniform, so sometimes it allowed us to take a step back and remember why we’re all here. There’s a reason we all play together, it’s the sacrifices that he made and guys that were with him. Sometimes it allows you to just go out and play the game that you love, cause you realize that others have made sacrifices that you couldn’t imagine doing.”