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Sharon Robinson honors father's legacy at FanFest

Pioneer Jackie broke baseball's color barrier just miles from site of the event

NEW YORK -- Sharon Robinson never played baseball. But wherever she went at All-Star FanFest on Saturday, fans flocked, posing for pictures, pleading for autographs -- on old photos of her father, the back of an iPhone case, a hotel notepad, whatever -- and asking for a simple handshake.

They want to get close to Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier about 10 miles from this midtown Manhattan convention center. And Sharon is as direct a link as there is.

"It's very touching to me," Sharon said. "I feel honored to be able to be here and be with the fans, representing my family in this way, because it does mean a lot to baseball fans that I come out, and that my mother comes out."

Sharon isn't just the only daughter of Jackie and Rachel, who started the Jackie Robinson Foundation shortly after her husband passed. She's an extension of them, dedicating her life to making sure Jackie's esteemed legacy lives on in today's youth.

Her latest example is a 48-page biography for kids, published by Scholastic and handed out at elementary schools all over the country, titled "Jackie Robinson: American Hero." It came out in March, a month before the widely-acclaimed movie "42," and marked the first time Sharon has written about her father in the third person.

On Saturday, hundreds lined up to get a signed copy.

"It was kind of a fun book to write because it's done in a way that I feel like kids can grab onto his story, and also to show the progression from being an athlete to being an American hero," said Sharon, born three years after Robinson made his Major League debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. "I want kids to understand the importance of his character in him being successful, because that's what they have to develop. They need their skills, they need to be accomplished in certain areas, but they also need to have a strong positive character."

Sharon found "42" to be "very powerful." Three scenes stuck out: When Jackie melts down, breaks his bat in the alley outside the dugout and contemplates giving it all up; when a heckler in Cincinnati provides a racist example for his son in the stands; and when Jackie and Rachel are first paired together.

The film opened Jackie's story up to a whole new audience. And Sharon, an educational consultant with Major League Baseball, has essentially made that her mission.

"I've taught, I've written, I've been in classes for many years," Sharon said. "For somebody to see the film '42' and come out of it with a greater understanding of the times, and of my father's courage, and of his mission and the work that he did in Major League Baseball -- there's no comparison."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez.