The sun is staying awake longer, and the weather is a beautiful mix of cool and warm. These sweet spring reminders always make me think of baseball.
Typically this time of year we’d have our beloved Texas Rangers playing on the TV while we go about whatever else is going on around our house a few evenings each week. And when possible we’d be cheering them on at a game while enjoying the smell of hot dogs and devouring the delicious nachos made of those giant cans of cheese, topped with dozens of jalapeños, of course.
Each major league baseball season there is a special day that came to mean a lot to me in recent years.
On April 15, major league baseball celebrates the first day Jackie Robinson played for a major league team back in 1947. Jackie was the first black person to play major league baseball since 1884. Robinson would turn out to be a role model and signifiant person in Black/African American history.
One year I saw a special on Jackie Robinson that deeply impacted me.
Jackie was not necessarily the best baseball player. He was an extraordinary athlete and a very gifted baseball player, but he was chosen to be the first black man in major league baseball also because he was a person of strong character. The man who signed Jackie to play baseball for the majors believed he was the best man to handle the opposition and terrible treatment he would surely face.
Being a black athlete in major league baseball in 1947 meant Jackie was treated terribly unfairly, taunted cruelly, and placed in real danger. He wasn’t allowed to stay with the rest of the team at spring training. He was often not allowed to eat at restaurants with his team either. Even worse, on the field it wasn’t uncommon for him to face humiliating taunting, even having pitchers throw the ball at his head and slide dangerously and intentionally into him.
Jackie proved he was indeed a man of strong character. Although he faced tremendous pressure and terrible treatment, he didn’t quit. He did the opposite. He thrived.
Another huge part of Jackie’s success in major league baseball was his wife, Rachel. When Jackie was signed to play professionally, he was told he would need a loving wife to help him make it through what he was about to endure. Rachel was the perfect partner to help him push through the color barrier in baseball.
During Jackie’s first spring training with his team, Rachel was the only wife invited to join the team. His team understood how important she would be for his longevity in the game.
And her love and support was a huge necessity. As he faced countless unjust circumstances, Jackie struggled greatly at first, but Rachel stood by her husband. Jackie gained much strength from her.
Jackie saw Rachel and himself as a team and even referred to his accomplishments in games as being achieved by “we.”
Jackie and Rachel’s story encourages me to work to improve my own character and inner strength. Maybe in some area of my life I won’t be the best, but maybe I can be the one whose character can handle suffering for the benefit of many others.
I also imagine Jackie’s mom when my own children are “passionate” or stubborn. Was she discouraged by having a child with grit and determination? Was she tired because of her son’s intense personality? I want to remember that we need to raise the next generation to be passionate and determined and to be able to use those traits the right way on the right things.
Additionally, I want to be a spouse like Rachel. I want to be so supportive and loving to my husband that he is empowered to face any challenges that come his way.
Finally, I want to remember things can change even when they don’t feel like it. When Jackie started playing major league baseball, who could have imagined one day men of all ethnicities would be playing baseball together? Not only that, but that baseball would actually be so much better that way.
I can’t wait to watch baseball again. Thank you Jackie and Rachel for helping make it as wonderful as it is today!