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Halos cite Jackie's effect on changing game

ANAHEIM -- For Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun, one of the perks of cracking the Opening Day roster and establishing himself as an everyday player are days like Tuesday, when he dons Jackie Robinson's historic No. 42 and all of Major League Baseball honors its past like no other sport.

"What he did for the game was absolutely tremendous, and really changed the whole dynamic," the 26-year-old Calhoun said prior to experiencing his first Jackie Robinson Day. "He brought not only black players into the game, but really produced baseball across the whole world. Look how many Latin players are in the game now. It became a worldwide game once [Robinson] broke that color barrier."

Calhoun is one of several young players who gained a deeper appreciation, or at least a broader base of knowledge, for what Robinson went through when the movie "42" became a box-office hit last April.

In 1997, for the 50th anniversary of his breaking the color barrier, Robinson's number was retired throughout MLB. The last active player to wear No. 42 was Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who retired after the 2013 season.

Tuesday marked the 67th anniversary of Robinson playing his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and to celebrate the occasion, the lights of New York's famous Empire State Building were a vintage shade of Dodger blue.

"Without Jackie Robinson doing what he did, I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you," said Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, the only African-American player on the team.

"It's a signature day for the sport," starter C.J. Wilson said. "Not too many singular person's name, number and performance can be celebrated like that, once a year and on a daily basis, and on a global scale."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia spent 13 years as a catcher with the Dodgers, so Robinson's impact was engrained in him from the onset. Days like Tuesday make Scioscia recall the Robinson stories he heard from Robinson's ex-teammates, like Don Newcombe, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider and Roy Campanella.

"These guys were tremendous, not only as baseball players, but as human beings, and they brought forward Jackie's presence, brought forward all the things that he went through to make this game better and make our country better," Scioscia said, hours before the Angels honored Robinson with a pregame video tribute. "You just have to be mesmerized by the stories of not only how great an athlete he was, but his commitment to this country, his service to this country, and obviously having a Hall of Fame career."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez.
Read More: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, C.J. Wilson, Howie Kendrick, Kole Calhoun