SEATTLE -- Tigers rookie Austin Jackson has never had the chance to wear Jackie Robinson's No. 42 as a pro. Friday was his chance. As a young African-American player, Jackson is following in the legacy of many greats before him. But the legacy started with Robinson, who was honored across baseball on Thursday. Since the Tigers and Mariners were both off Thursday, they remembered Robinson and his contributions Friday by having every player wear No. 42. That included Jackson, who is well aware of what Robinson means not only to the game, but to society.
"What he did for African-Americans in baseball, that's something that I take a lot of pride in," Jackson said. "He did a lot, and he's a big part of why we're playing this game. That means a lot to me, and to go out there and wear No. 42, that's an honor." When critics cite declining numbers among young African-Americans playing baseball, Jackson is one of the exceptions. Though he was a multi-sport athlete in high school, he had a clear interest in baseball. He got involved in the game watching his older brother play, but he also picked up his interest while idolizing Ken Griffey Jr., now with the Mariners. "I don't know how I got really just fixed on him," said Jackson, who met Griffey a few years ago and was so nervous he was almost speechless. "I met him when he was with Cincinnati two years ago in big league camp. Had a million things to say to him, and then when I finally met him, I couldn't say anything. I got stuck. I think I walked up to him and introduced myself, and I was like, 'Can I get a bat?' It was a weird thing to ask somebody you don't know."