Hicks, Twins take pride in opportunity to honor Jackie

Club hosts Celebrate Diversity Day on 67th anniversary of Robinson's entry into bigs

Hicks, Twins take pride in opportunity to honor Jackie

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins celebrated the 67th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier with a ceremony at Target Field before Tuesday's game against the Blue Jays.

With Robinson in mind, the Twins hosted Celebrate Diversity Day, with several musical and cultural performances held before the game. Jackie Robinson Essay winners were also presented with awards during a special pregame ceremony.

All players from the Twins and Blue Jays, as well as on-field personnel, wore Robinson's No. 42 during the game. In 1997, under the direction of Commissioner Bud Selig, Robinson's No. 42 was retired across all of Major League Baseball in an unprecedented tribute.

Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks, the lone African-American on Minnesota's roster, said he was honored to be wearing No. 42. No current Major Leaguer wears No. 42 after Yankees closer Mariano Rivera retired after last season.

"He allowed us to play baseball and lifted the barrier for a lot of black players," Hicks said. "It just means a lot. This is the first time where everyone is wearing it as Jackie's number because obviously Mariano Rivera wore it. So it's kind of cool to see the number fully committed to Jackie Robinson."

Hicks said his father, Joe, who played in the Padres organization as a Minor Leaguer in the late 1970s, was the one who told him growing up about the importance of Robinson breaking the color barrier.

Hicks said he saw the film "42" last year as a result, and also went to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City last season. He said he enjoyed the film because it helped show what Robinson went through when he broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

"I liked it," Hicks said. "I liked how it really showed you the difference between going to UCLA and how he didn't deal with as much racism there. It was the first time he'd seen like a whites-only place. So it just put it in perspective and what it was like."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire also said he enjoys the festivities that come with Jackie Robinson Day around baseball. The lineup cards for both teams and the bases also featured special Jackie Robinson logos to celebrate the occasion.

"It's cool," Gardenhire said. "It's something that baseball has done a very nice job recognizing Jackie and his accomplishments and everything he went through. I think it's a neat thing, and always has been. So it's a cool day for us all to put that number on and see how he came into this league and wouldn't take nothing from anybody. He respected the game an awful lot but stood up for what he thought he was right."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.