Givens on JRD: 'It should always mean more'

August 28th, 2020

To hear Mychal Givens say it, Jackie Robinson Day doesn’t mean any more this year because it landed Friday, a day after player activism continued across MLB to protest systemic racism and police brutality. That is mere coincidence, and if it helps amplify the message of racial equality, all the better.

“For me, this day shouldn’t mean more this year,” Givens said ahead of the Orioles series opener against the Blue Jays. “It should always mean more. It’s wonderful to put the uniform on every year. I love that we’re still supporting him even in a short season.”

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 also is the date in 1945 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 includes a $3.5 million commitment on behalf of MLB.

In honor of Robinson’s legacy, the Orioles revisited content from the league-wide celebration on April 15, with a special “story time” reading of “My Little Golden Book about Jackie Robinson” by Frank J. Berrios, read by infielder Richie Martin. Martin, who is out for the season after undergoing wrist surgery, is the grandson of Walter “Bancy” Thomas, who played in the Negro Leagues and was teammates with Robinson in 1945 before Robinson broke MLB’s color barrier.

Several Orioles players and coaches have worn shirts honoring the legacy of the Negro Leagues during this, its centennial year, including manager Brandon Hyde. Hyde did so Thursday afternoon, just before the Orioles voted as a team not to play their scheduled series finale in St. Petersburg to bring light to social issues in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha, Wisc., police officer.

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It is against that backdrop that they honor Robinson this year, wearing No. 42 as a team for their first game in Buffalo, N.Y., the temporary home of the Blue Jays. Toronto also did not play against the Red Sox on Thursday night, in solidarity with the Red Sox deciding not to take the field.

“I think there are a lot of heavy hearts in the clubhouse and in the world right now. There is an opportunity here that we all can grasp, and understand we need to do better as a whole,” said outfielder Mason Williams, one of the Orioles’ five Black players. “It means a lot to us collectively, not just as teammates, but as humans. The reason we didn’t play yesterday was because we felt it was bigger than baseball at the time. We felt like it was the right thing to do.”

Said Hyde: “I just want to support our African American players and support the racial equality movement. This is a tough time right now, and to listen to our players talk and their stories and their experiences, it's very moving. I'm learning a lot and I feel really good about everything that's going on in our little world in our clubhouse, and I want our guys to know that they have free expression and can be free thinkers and always have my support.”

Rescheduling Rays tilt
The Orioles and Rays will make up Thursday's postponed game as part of a doubleheader on Sept. 17, starting at 5:05 p.m. ET in Baltimore. The Orioles will be the home team for the first game and the Rays will serve as the "home" team for the second game.