Reds host week-long schedule of events to honor Jackie

April 22nd, 2024

The Reds joined Major League Baseball in celebrating Jackie Robinson Day with a week’s worth of activities honoring one of the game’s legendary figures.

Every year on April 15, MLB honors the Brooklyn Dodgers trailblazer at ballparks across the league with a day full of ceremonies to commemorate Robinson’s legacy. With the Reds in Seattle on Jackie Robinson Day, the organization still had events lined up throughout the week throughout Greater Cincinnati to recognize Robinson.

The celebration began the weekend leading into Jackie Robinson Day on April 13 and 14. The Skyline Chili Reds Futures High School Showcase presented by Cincinnati Children’s Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics paid homage to Robinson by hosting eight games featuring Cincinnati Public Schools baseball and softball teams. All participating players wore Robinson-inspired “42” jerseys provided by Nike and the Reds Community Fund.

All participants in the Skyline Chili Reds Futures High School Showcase presented by Cincinnati Children’s Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics wore Jackie Robinson-inspired “42” jerseys provided by Nike and the Reds Community Fund.Cincinnati Reds

“Being in the Showcase, especially being an inner-city school within Cincinnati Pubic Schools which has primarily African Americans, it is absolutely amazing that we are able to celebrate Jackie Robinson and all the accomplishments and things that he did,” Riverview East Academy head coach Alex Yursky said. “Setting a precedent for all of us, especially my players of color who are able to play because he set that precedent. It’s really awesome.”

On April 17, the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy hosted its third annual Joe Morgan HBCU Classic, with Kentucky State University taking on Wilberforce University. Players from both teams wore throwback Negro Leagues jerseys, made possible by Michael Carter from Sinclair College in Dayton, and received custom, limited-edition baseball cleats from Nike. Kentucky State took this year’s Classic with a 12-7 victory.

Players from both teams in the Joe Morgan HBCU Classic wore throwback Negro Leagues jerseys.Cincinnati Reds

Among the special guests in attendance was seven-time All-Star and Reds Hall of Famer Dave Parker, who addressed the crowd and players before the game. Pregame festivities also featured a ceremonial first pitch from Chuck Harmon Jr., son of former Red Chuck Harmon, to recognize a very special anniversary.

“Today is the 70th anniversary of [Chuck Sr.] becoming the first Black player [in Reds history], April 17, 1954, so it’s a great honor to be out here today,” Harmon Jr. said. “It just shows me the sacrifices that my father made at the time when he was coming up playing baseball -- now you can look at the fruits of all of his hard labor.”

With the team back in town from its road trip, Reds players , and visited Woodward Career Technical High School last Friday to speak with 15 of the school’s baseball and softball players. The big leaguers shared their personal experiences and advice as Black athletes and as Black men.

“It’s great they asked a lot of questions regarding sports,” said Greene to’s Mark Sheldon. “But most of them were about life and how to maneuver through life and how to use some of the lessons from sports and how they can translate into life. Hopefully we were a wealth of knowledge for the kids today, but it seems like their heads were all in the right place.”

“I think it’s important to see people that look like you being successful at a high level and understand the level of commitment, the time and energy that goes into getting to that level," Woodward athletic director Jabreel Moton added.

The players also discussed the importance and impact Robinson had in getting them to where they are in their careers today -- a position none of them would be in had it not been for the Dodgers legend.

“It’s to keep the history fresh in their minds to know where they come from and these are your roots," Benson said. "By them knowing that, it will give them inspiration to continue to push. And the story of Jackie Robinson will continue to live on through these kids.”

The Robinson tribute wrapped up later that night at Great American Ball Park, where fans in attendance to see the Reds face the Angels took home an oversized Jackie Robinson baseball card, courtesy of LifeCenter. Pregame ceremonies honored the life and legacy of Robinson, including recognizing members of the AACE LLC ownership group, Reds shareholders since 2006. The AACE group was one of the first Black ownership groups in American sports history.

Members of the Cincinnati Cyclones hockey team throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Great American Ball Park.Cincinnati Reds

In addition, Cincinnati Cyclones hockey team head coach Jason Payne, one of the two Black head coaches of the ECHL, offered up a ceremonial first pitch. The Cyclones made history on March 30 when Black players Landon Cato, Elijah Gonsalves, Jalen Smereck, Kyle Bollers, and Josh Burnside took the ice as the starting lineup. The players joined Coach Payne during the on-field recognition.

Seventy-seven years after Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier, barriers are still being broken, even beyond baseball. And each year, the Reds and MLB will continue showcasing Robinson and his everlasting impact.