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Hunter among Tigers proud to honor Jackie

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DETROIT -- After a one-night delay for what right fielder Torii Hunter called a "snow day," Hunter and the Tigers will honor the legacy of Jackie Robinson on Wednesday night against the Indians.

Tuesday's game was postponed to a date not yet determined because of frigid temperatures and a couple of inches of snow that blanketed metro Detroit. By mid-day Wednesday, the snow had vanished, the sun was out and Robinson's retired No. 42 jersey had been placed in all the lockers belonging to Detroit personnel.

"Jackie Robinson was one of the strongest men in America," Hunter said Wednesday. "He helped change mindsets. … He's a very special person. It's a great day for us and for baseball yesterday."

The anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier as a member of the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers fell on Tuesday. Three other Tuesday celebrations -- in Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia -- were also pushed back to Wednesday due to inclement weather.

The Tigers' lineup for Wednesday night includes an all-African-American outfield (Hunter in right, Rajai Davis in left and Austin Jackson in center) -- something that Davis noted has become quite rare in today's game.

"You don't find that on too many teams. We, I suppose, are one of the few that have that." Davis said Wednesday. "I guess it makes it that much more special."

According to a USA TODAY survey of Opening Day rosters, African-Americans comprise just 7.8 percent of MLB teams, down from the period between 1972 and 1996 when the figure was more than double that. Even so, the focus Wednesday was on the strides that have been taken in the 67 years since Robinson integrated the game.

"If it wasn't for the pioneers, like the one who started it, where would guys like me be?" Davis said. "Just the fact that we remember those who paved the way says a lot about Major League Baseball."

The Tigers held the 18th annual Jackie Robinson Art, Essay and Poetry contest, encouraging students to submit an original work of art, essay or poem that honors Robinson and his legacy. This year's winners are Amanda Auten (Britten Deerfield School) and Jawan Davis (Denby High School) for art; Ryan Chatterjee (Reuther Middle School) and Joel Tedone (Riverview Community High School) for essays; and Annie Gibbs (Reuther Middle School) and Olivia Upham (Oxford High School) in the poetry category.

The students will be honored along with Jackie Robinson Foundation Alumni and Scholars from the University of Michigan later in the season.

Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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