CINCINNATI -- Jackie Robinson influenced many generations of African-American baseball players in decades long after he broke the color barrier. In their own way on Friday, Reds players Billy Hamilton and Amir Garrett and third base coach Billy Hatcher wanted to pay it forward to the generation that follows them.Saturday
CINCINNATI -- Jackie Robinson influenced many generations of African-American baseball players in decades long after he broke the color barrier. In their own way on Friday, Reds players Billy Hamilton and Amir Garrett and third base coach Billy Hatcher wanted to pay it forward to the generation that follows them.
Saturday marked the 70th anniversary of when Robinson broke baseball's color barrier for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. On Friday at Hughes High School in Cincinnati, the members of the Reds visited with student athletes to discuss Robinson's legacy.
"It means a lot to give those kids motivation to do things in life and not just baseball, not just being about sports but their careers, things they want to do in school," said Hamilton, the Reds' center fielder. "We talked about doing what you want to do, knowing you can do it and not letting anything stop you."
There was also a question-and-answer session with the students and the players were able to share things about their lives in baseball and beyond.
"It was fun," Garrett said. "It was a good experience being around all of those kids, letting them pick our brains and us being able to share our knowledge with them about Jackie Robinson Day and what it means. The kids all wanted to know about us and what it took for us to get to the level we're at right now. It's a great feeling to share knowledge with the kids and about the hard work we put in."
Odds are that very few of the student athletes at Hughes will go on to a career in professional sports. Hamilton said it was essential for the kids to have goals outside of sports, but also not to quit dreaming.
"It's very important, especially for us, to go to those kids and give them a bunch of motivation to want to be successful in life," Hamilton said. "We talked about having a plan and not letting anything stop you from doing what you want to do.
"Growing up for me, there were guys who had a bunch of talent but just didn't go through with it because they didn't know they even had the chance to do it. For me to come out of the small town I came from [in Mississippi] and look at those kids to give them motivation to want to be successful in life, it meant a lot for us to be at Hughes."
Perhaps the next Hamilton, Garrett or Hatcher will come from Hughes. Actually, there will definitely be another Amir Garrett that comes out of the school -- Garrett met a kid at the program who has the same name.
"That was pretty cool," Garrett said. "A lady said we've got Amir Garrett here and I said, 'That's me.' She said, 'That's him, too.' I never met someone with the same first and last name as me."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.