Aviles, Bourn speak on importance of Robinson

Aviles, Bourn speak on importance of Robinson

DETROIT -- Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day on Tuesday, but the Indians were unable to participate when extremely cold temperatures and snow forced a postponement of Cleveland's game with the Tigers. The tribute in Detroit carried over to Wednesday's tilt at Comerica Park.

Maybe that is fitting, because Robinson's legacy is worth remembering each day during a baseball season. With Robinson's famous No. 42 stitched on the back of each Cleveland jersey hanging in the visitors' clubhouse, Indians infielder Mike Aviles spoke of the importance of honoring the Hall of Famer.

On April 15, 1947, Robinson debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking baseball's color barrier.

"If it wasn't for Jackie Robinson," Aviles said, "a lot of players such as myself wouldn't be here. Who knows when the barrier would've been broken? I know there's a lot of players across the league and in the Minor Leagues that are very appreciative for what he endured for the time that he played. It was a very tough era. It wasn't a very welcoming era.

"He endured a lot and was basically the ambassador for Latins, blacks, Asians, everybody. Once he broke the color barrier, it allowed other teams to understand that there are a lot of good players all over the country and the world. If you don't know about it, it's definitely worth going back and reading about what he endured.

"I know every time I put that jersey on, I'm honored. I get a couple goosebumps putting it on, because as soon as you see that 42, you think about what he went through."

Indians center fielder Michael Bourn echoed Aviles' comments.

"I got the chance to watch the movie this offseason," said Bourn, referring to the film "42" that came out last year. "The things that he had to endure just for African-Americans just to play baseball, I mean, you can't even put it into words. That just shows the strength he had. It took strength to do what he did. It would've broken me, I can tell you that.

"It's just not easy, but God puts certain people in certain situations because he knows they can handle it. He put him in that situation, and all we can say is thank you. Hopefully we get more African-Americans into playing baseball. I think that'd be what he wants, just from the things he had to endure and the things he saw. I'm happy to be able to put on his number and excited to be able to wear it."

African-Americans comprise 7.8 percent of Major League teams -- roughly half of where the percentage stood between 1972 and 1996 -- according to a USA TODAY survey of this season's Opening Day rosters. Bourn hopes to see that figure rise in the years to come.

"It's a beautiful sport to play," Bourn said. "I'm glad my dad had me play it as a young kid. It'd be nice to see more of us in the sport. I would want my boy to play it, if he wanted to and was interested in it. It'd be a joy to watch."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.