Roberts spreads Jackie's message to kids

Dodgers manager speaks with children on second day of four-day event at Camelback Ranch

March 4th, 2017
Dave Roberts on No. 42: 'He paved the way for all of us.' (Jon Soohoo/Dodgers)

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There are few active figures in baseball more representative of the diversity sought by Jackie Robinson than Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

Roberts, who is of Japanese and African-American descent, walked through the door opened by Robinson's breaking of baseball's color barrier in 1947, putting together a 10-year Major League career and eventually taking his current position. He is the first African-American manager of the Dodgers and joined Don Wakamatsu as the only two Japanese managers in Major League history.

In an event on Friday with children from elementary schools throughout Glendale, Ariz., at the Dodgers' Spring Training complex at Camelback Ranch, Roberts sought to echo the legacy of Robinson -- perhaps the most notable figure in the history of the franchise.

"He paved the way for all of us," Roberts said. "[His teammates] used to talk about what Jackie went through. A lot of times, what Jackie did was, beyond being a great baseball player, he was a guy who was just so tough."

The event is part of a series of meetings the Dodgers are having this week from Thursday to Sunday, as the club will host 500 underserved students from Glendale Elementary School District and other community organizations. The event is put together by Kids 4 Dodger Baseball, which is in its fourth season of putting together similar events during the regular season.

Schools benefiting from the event included Coyote Ridge Elementary, Don Mensendick School, Challenger Middle School, Heritage Elementary School and Landmark Elementary.

The kids were given the full Spring Training experience and a history lesson all in one, hearing the words of Barack Obama and Robinson's widow, Rachel, over a series of videos that expressed Robinson's impact both in baseball and American society. They then heard from Roberts, who held a special Q&A session with the group of students before they attended that day's game.

On the final day of the event on Sunday, preselected groups of youth players will take part in a special baseball clinic led by Dodgers Minor Leaguers.

Roberts has his own tale of Robinson's impact. His father, Waymon, grew up in Houston in the midst of a world of segregation. When Robinson broke the color barrier, it sparked hope in Waymon that things would change. He then encouraged his son to follow in Robinson's footsteps, even if it wasn't on the baseball diamond.

"Whether I was going to play Major League Baseball or not, I really believed that I was going to impact people's lives in a positive way somehow," Roberts said. "Teachers have a positive impact. Doctors have an impact. That's just how I carried myself every day."

Roberts found success on the diamond, attending Robinson's alma mater, UCLA, and turning that into a productive Major League career.

Robinson was able to affect so many lives, Roberts said, because of his outlook on life and his dedication to bettering himself. Roberts told the children that setting goals, much like he has set with the Dodgers in 2017, is the key to success in life.

Roberts viewed it as a mirror to life.

"Whatever your passion is, it's just about doing things the right way, working hard and believing in yourself," Roberts said. "To have a goal and a dream is great. You have to understand how you're going to get there. It's by making the right decisions, like Jackie. Hard work, like Jackie. Patience, that's what Jackie did."