Texas high schoolers learn to 'dream big' in Jackie Robinson Day celebration

April 16th, 2023

HOUSTON -- This was a day about life lessons and a legacy. This was about helping the next ones in line while honoring those who paved the way. This day was about Jackie Robinson and everything he’s meant to the game of baseball and society.

The Astros and Rangers joined forces Saturday with The Players Alliance to celebrate baseball’s annual Jackie Robinson Day, with a group of current and former players meeting 75 high school baseball and softball players prior to the game at Minute Maid Park.

The up-and-coming players heard from former big leaguers and current players and coaches on both teams and were given new baseball gloves, bats and bat bags, in addition to watching the game.

“Whatever dream you have, don’t let nobody tell you that you can’t fulfill your dream,” Astros manager Dusty Baker told the group. “Ain’t nobody going to give it to you. You’ve got to work for it, and you’ve got to be prepared.”

The majority of the players (40) were from the Astros Urban Youth Academy, while the rest were a mix of players from Sterling High School in Houston and Hightower High School in Missouri City, Texas. Baker joined players and and general manager Dana Brown in talking to the group, while third-base coach Tony Beasley and second baseman talked from the Rangers' side.

“Today's a big day,” Semien said. ”I think that the program that The Players Alliance has implemented, where players can donate one day of work to The Players Alliance, that’s today, April 15. Just having kids come in and be able to come into a Major League stadium and meet the Major League players, if I was their age it would be a dream for me. So we're excited to hand out some gifts and gloves, and hopefully they can enjoy them and learn baseball.“

The Players Alliance is a group of more than 100 active and former professional players united to use their voice and platform to create new opportunities for the Black community in all areas of baseball and society.

Curtis Granderson, a former big league All-Star and current board chair for The Players Alliance, was giving some instructions to the group when he quickly lost the room. Baker walked into room to gasps and loud cheers, after which he offered wisdom from his half-century in the game.

“The one thing you’ve got to realize is somebody is always watching you,” Baker said. “They’re looking at how you act, how you work, how you dress. Always. There are people out there that are willing to give you an opportunity. Nobody is going to give you nothing, but if they give you an opportunity, you have to be prepared and be in position to act on that opportunity.”

Among the former players who attended while representing The Players Alliance were Chris Young (outfielder), Jason Bourgeois, Charlton Jimerson, Gerald Young and Michael Bourn. Former Astros manager Bo Porter said Houston is a target city for the Players Alliance to get more players involved in baseball.

“We know how expensive this sport can be, and The Players Alliance stepped up their game,” Porter said. “They’re getting more former players to ballparks, communities and schools to make sure we're passing our experience and wisdom down to [the] next generation.”

Bregman told the kids how his father instilled him hard work in him at an early age. The Astros' third baseman said his dad, Sam, told him there are three things he can control on the field each day.

“Your attitude and your effort and your hustle,” he said. “You can control those three things every single time you take the field, and you can control those three things with everything you do in life and off the field.”

Beasley said educating the next generation about the challenges Robinson faced in breaking the baseball’s color barrier is a responsibility he’s glad to carry.

“A lot of times we have to educate our kids because they don't really know the history of the game,” he said. “Just to be a part of that is important. We’re here to let the kids know that we represent hope, that they can have a bright future. The things that I have achieved in my life or anyone that's a minority has achieved in life, they can also achieve the same goals as well. They don't have to dream small. They can dream big."