ATLANTA -- As Braves outfielder Matt Kemp spent the early portion of his career with the Dodgers, he gained a genuine appreciation for that one day every season when he and every other Major League manager, coach and player would wear No. 42 to celebrate and commemorate all that Jackie Robinson gave the baseball world.
"Honestly, that was the only day I wore my pants up," Kemp said. "I tried to imitate everything [Robinson] did during that day. That was always one of those special days."
Major League Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day again Saturday to recognize the 70th anniversary of when Robinson broke baseball's color barrier. The historic moment occurred on April 15, 1947, when Robinson debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers and became MLB's first African-American player.
Before Saturday night's game against the Padres, the Braves unveiled Robinson's No. 42 along the wall that displays each of the organization's retired numbers.
"When I was playing for the Dodgers, they always had special guests, and the ceremonies were just crazy with legends and people I always wanted to meet," Kemp said. "Getting to be around Don Newcombe all of the time and guys who actually knew Jackie Robinson, I got to sit down and actually hear their personal stories. It was just unbelievable what they had to go through just to play a game that they love to play."
While spending each of the past 41 seasons within the Braves' organization, Braves manager Brian Snitker has developed a strong friendship with Hank Aaron, and along the way heard many chilling stories about the inequalities and hatred Aaron, Robinson and many other African-American players experienced while integrating the game and the United States.
"It's as impactful as anything that's ever occurred in the game of baseball, and also in our country," Padres manager Andy Green said. "It's the kind of story that when you stop and contemplate it, still gives you chills, brings tears to your eyes -- what [Robinson] went through, what he endured, what he accomplished, and how much it means to this game that all of us love. It's an honor every day you get to celebrate it."
Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran and his good friend Christian Bethancourt, who is now serving as a catcher/pitcher for the Padres are among the game's Latin American-born players who understand they are among the countless many members of the baseball world who continue to benefit from Robinson's bravery.
"Let's put it this way -- It means everything to African-American players and players like me from Latin America," Bethancourt said. "[Robinson's] basically the reason we're here in professional baseball. He meant so much to the game, that it's not only the African-American players or the Latin players who are grateful to him. It's everybody. He's the only player who we wear his number for one day. … I feel like I get to be Jackie Robinson for one day, that day I'm putting on Jackie Robinson's jersey and I get to represent Jackie Robinson."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.