Cubs: JR Day 'means a lot to everybody'

August 29th, 2020

The fact that this season's Jackie Robinson Day celebration arrived on Friday, shortly after protests across sports this week in the name of social justice, was not lost on Cubs outfielder .

Heyward hopes this moment also carries a lasting legacy.

"Without a Jackie Robinson situation," Heyward said prior to Friday's 6-5 loss to the Reds, during which he homered in the ninth inning. "I'm not sitting here in front of you as a Major League Baseball player, without that progress. So we want to do our part in having that kind of progress.

"We want to be able to look back 10, 20 years from now saying, 'In the year 2020, what we did made a big difference to move things forward.'"

Heyward pulled himself out of the Cubs' lineup shortly before Wednesday's game in Detroit, joining a sweeping movement across multiple sports leagues that continued into Thursday. Players and teams in the NBA, WNBA, MLS and MLB did not play in response to protests over Sunday's shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a police officer in Kenosha, Wis.

The Cubs met as a team in the hours before Friday's game in Cincinnati to hold a longer discussion about Heyward's decision and the ongoing issues around the country. Chicago's players and staff have met in groups to have similar conversations dating back to Summer Camp.

"I don't think there's any doubt that we're all on the same page as J," Cubs manager David Ross said. "We know our heart[s] and what's going on in here, and we're trying to do right by J. We're always trying to do what's right by him."

Major League Baseball chose to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day on Aug. 28 for two reasons. It's the anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, which the Robinson family attended, and it's also is the date in '45 when Robinson and Branch Rickey met to discuss his future as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In conjunction with the celebration, MLB announced a partnership extension with the JRF Scholarship Program, the Jackie Robinson Museum and the annual JRF ROBIE Awards. The extension is through 2023, and it includes a $3.5 million commitment on behalf of MLB.

"This is a day that you're proud to wear '42' on your jersey. It really is," Ross said. "I usually wear a pullover. I'm going to wear my jersey today. It just means a lot to everybody. There's so many people to be thankful for, but he had to deal with a lot and these guys, especially the minority players in our game, understand that and appreciate that."

Heyward feels support from Cubs
Heyward reiterated Friday that he encouraged his teammates to take the field for Wednesday's game against the Tigers. The outfielder noted that his decision came so close to game time that there was not enough time to have a long conversation as a team about not playing.

"The support and love was felt on my end," Heyward said. "They understand that I had to do what I had to do. As far as after the game, [Thursday] on the off-day, I had guys, I had staff, people reach out."

Heyward added that Cubs president Theo Epstein reached out Friday afternoon and informed the outfielder that Epstein and other front-office staffers pledged to donate their salaries from the past couple days to causes supported by The Players Alliance, including the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

Heyward and other players associated with The Players Alliance donated their salaries from Thursday and Friday to "combat racial inequality and aid the Black families and communities deeply affected in the wake of recent events," per a statement.

"We have a platform," Heyward said. "And we do want to continue to give back with more than just saying, 'We don't feel like something's right.' We've got to show up. We've got to have action to our words."

Worth noting
• Third baseman Kris Bryant (10-day injured list, left wrist and left ring finger) and outfielder Steven Souza Jr. (10-day IL, right hamstring) each had five at-bats on Friday at the South Bend, Ind., alternate training site, according to Ross. There remains no announced timetable for their return.

• Right-hander Yu Darvish will start the opener of Saturday's doubleheader against the Reds, with righty Alec Mills taking the ball in Game 2 for the Cubs. Chicago has yet to announce its probable starter for Sunday.