ATLANTA -- At an early age, Braves center fielder Michael Bourn started to gain an understanding of the inequalities Jackie Robinson and other former Negro Leaguers faced even after being allowed to play in the Majors. Bourn's own father battled the ugliness of racism while growing up in Louisiana during the 1960s.
Because white players made it know that African-American players were not welcome even after integration had started, Ray Bourn opted not to play baseball for Northeast Lousiana State College (now Louisiana Monroe) after arriving on campus 20 years after Robinson had broken baseball's color barrier.
While the elder Bourn was unable to pursue his personal baseball dreams, he helped his son and Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford achieve their dreams to reach the Majors. He served as father, coach and motivator to both dating back to their Little League days in the Houston area.
"I know he was in that era when it was rugged and totally different than it is now," Bourn said.
Recognizing how much easier life has been for him than it was for his father and Robinson, Bourn was proud to see every Major League player again honor Robinson by wearing No. 42 on Sunday, the 65th anniversary of Robinson breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier.
"Every year, you get to wear it; it's an honor to wear that jersey," Bourn said. "It's an honor just to be here, first of all. Then being able to wear that jersey is another honor. It's a special day. There's a reason everybody does it around baseball, and it's just because of all he had to go through -- the abuse [Robinson] went through for all of us."
Braves right fielder Jason Heyward was introduced to Robinson's journey while reading a book about him while in elementary school. Growing up 30 minutes south of Atlanta, Heyward often thought about the fact that Robinson also was raised in Georgia.
Robinson also attended UCLA, the school Heyward committed to before the Braves took him in the first round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
Heyward spent Sunday's game against the Brewers wearing shoes Nike made to honor Robinson. The light blue and gold cleats included the Hall of Famer's name and familiar No. 42.
"It's pretty cool to honor him that way," Heyward said. "It's a celebration for us.