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Jackie Robinson Day conjures memories for Gonzalez

MIAMI -- Hours before first pitch, Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez tweeted a photo of his No. 42 jersey to commemorate Jackie Robinson Day, which is being celebrated league-wide for the third straight year.

"I was a kid playing in the backyard with broken glass, garbage all over the place, rocks, grabbing a bunch of neighborhood kids and just having fun," Gonzalez said. "Just thinking about it -- it's Jackie Robinson -- the best player to ever walk this earth to represent each one of us.

"When you see it from my perspective as a young kid from Hialeah, Fla., who grew up with nothing, getting to represent a Major League team wearing the most remarkable number in baseball just says it all."

Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Outfielder Denard Span, who is on the seven-day concussion disabled list, would always tell his managers he had to play on the day honoring the six-time All-Star "no matter what."

"It means a lot to me. I'm kind of sad that I'm not going to be on the field playing this day," Span said. "I always look forward to this day. It's a special day not just for African-Americans or minorities. I think it's a special day for the game of baseball and society in general. It shows how far this nation has come, for everybody to be able to come together and not only play a game, and enjoy life together."

Brooklyn won six pennants in Robinson's 10 seasons. He was named National League Most Valuable Player in 1949 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

"The thing that strikes me about it is we all wear the same number, and that's great, but what it signifies to me is we're all the same," manager Matt Williams said. "That's what he wanted. We're all ballplayers, we all do the same thing and all he wanted to be is one of those guys."

Christina De Nicola is a contributor to
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