LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers on Saturday as a team, in full uniform, walked from the clubhouse to the center field plaza at Dodger Stadium, convening for a moment of group reflection around the statue of Jackie Robinson, on the 76th anniversary of his major league debut with Brooklyn in 1947. Not only did manager Dave Roberts speak, but so did Jason Heyward, in his first year with the team.
“This is my 14th Jackie Robinson Day as a major leaguer, and it never gets old,” Heyward said.
“I just can never stop imagining what Jackie had to go through on a daily basis when he continuously had it thrown in his face that he was different,” Heyward said.
Roberts said earlier in the week he asked Heyward to speak, and was blown away when Heyward’s reaction was to thank him for the opportunity.
“It’s not always about performance on the field. I get more joy out of seeing players mature and grow, and to have gratitude,” Roberts said. “Jason really understands who he is as a man, and his place in this world. That rubs off and impacts the guys that are in our clubhouse.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to be on the same team with Jason. I heard so many things about him, and people talk in this game. He’s still got a charity in Chicago, and he does a lot of stuff off the field. It’s not surprising, his willingness to use his voice and experience to help our ballclub and our organization.”
Heyward, wearing Nike shoes with Jackie Robinson’s number 42 on the side, wasn’t only speaking to the Dodgers. This year, the Cubs — with whom Heyward played for six seasons — came out to the statue as a team as well.
The idea arose earlier in the week when the Cubs social media team reached out to the Dodgers and asked if they could be out there for the ceremony. From there, the Dodgers broached the idea of asking the Cubs team if they wanted to join the festivities.
Heyward was one connection, but so was Cubs manager David Ross, who not only played with and managed Heyward but also began his playing career with the Dodgers, with Roberts as a teammate from 2002-04. Ross also mentioned that this was the Cubs’ first time playing at Dodger Stadium on April 15, which made the day even more special.
“They reached out to David, and I knew his answer would be yes,” Roberts said. “To see his players and staff there, it’s just good to see they were well-represented.”