Marlins honor Jackie Robinson’s legacy in series of events

April 24th, 2024

The Miami Marlins honored Jackie Robinson’s legacy leading up to and following Jackie Robinson Day on April 15 in a multitude of ways, beginning with hosting the third annual Jackie Robinson Classic presented by Nike on April 9.

Featuring two predominantly black South Florida high schools, the players enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience at loanDepot park. Along with playing on a Major League field, they were surprised with special Nike cleats and met Marlins alumni and former MLB greats Charles Johnson and Preston Wilson.

It was the perfect start to the organization’s efforts to celebrate Robinson by growing the sport locally, focusing on youth empowerment, and honoring community leaders who are making a difference.

On Sunday, April 14, the Marlins hosted the organization’s annual South Florida Black Legacy Celebration presented by J.P. Morgan at the ballpark. The day’s festivities celebrated local black leaders, who continue to leave a lasting impact on our community. Marlins President of Business Operations Caroline O’Connor, Chief Commercial Officer David Oxfeld, Vice President of Ticket Sales & Service Andre Luck, and Vice President of Public Affairs Alfredo Mesa presented them with medallions as part of a special ceremony before the group was honored on the field.

“This is special to me, just being a black professional here,” said Luck. “I see all the people we honored as mentors, so it was cool for me because I got to pick their brain a little bit about challenges they overcame, things I can implement day-to-day as a black leader here in South Florida, and how I can pay it forward to the next generation of leaders.”

The honorees included Miami-Dade Police Department Director Stephanie Daniels, City of Miami Chairwoman Christine King, Miami-Dade County Chairman Oliver Gilbert III, attorney Yolanda Cash-Jackson, lawyer Albert Dotson Jr., pastor Arthur Jackson III, and pastor Carl Johnson. Daniels, who is the first women to ever serve as Deputy Director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, threw out the first pitch.

“It’s very impactful to be out in and represent the community that most of us come from,” said Daniels. “It’s very important that since we come from this community, we continue to be a part of it, build upon it, and make a difference. It’s also about having young individuals that come from the same community as us see that they can aspire to be anything they want to be.”

At that night’s game, the Marlins hosted mentors and mentees from the Miami-based 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project for a Jackie Robinson Nine Values Experience presented by Morgan Stanley. 5000 Role Models is dropout prevention, mentoring program committed to closing the minority male achievement gap.

Luck, who is also a 5000 Role Models mentor, Marlins Director of Group Sales Tristan Atterbury, and Group Sales & Service Executive Kendel Parkinson-Olivares, spoke to the group, sharing their personal experiences and educating them on Robinson’s Nine Values. The mentees took these learnings and greeted fans around the ballpark with signs featuring the various values. They then lined up on the field with Marlins players during the National Anthem.

“For me, it’s about exposure because a lot of times, these kids don’t get to come to a Major League ballpark and get these experiences,” said Luck, a 5000 Role Models mentor. “5000 Role Models is super special, and the kids got to hear from people in the front office about their day-to-day and what it takes to be successful.”

In a special on-field pre-game ceremony, Marlins President of Baseball Operations Peter Bendix and Marlins President of Business Operations Caroline O’Connor presented the Jackie Robinson Employee of the Year Award to Marlins Special Assignment Scout Joe Caro and Marlins Director of Facilities Daniel Hernandez.

Each year, the organization gives the award to members of the front office who best exemplify Robinson’s Nine Values. The winners on each side of the organization are selected by their colleagues.

Following the ceremony, Nasir Grant, a Jackie Robinson Foundation Legacy Scholar from the University of Miami, threw out the first pitch to Marlins outfielder Nick Gordon.

“It was a very wholesome experience,” said Grant. “I was really nervous before throwing it, but I feel much more confident after. I just really appreciate the experience.”

Over the following days, Marlins front office staff and volunteers from PNC Bank concluded the organization’s celebration of Jackie Robinson Day and his legacy by visiting two additional Slugger Schoolhouses, Lenora B. Smith and Kensington Park elementary schools, where they led students in similar activities from Bell and Anderson’s visit.