Hicks, Judge and Stanton are among more than 250 players donating their game salaries on Jackie Robinson Day to The Players Alliance, a non-profit organization founded by a group of active and former Major League players seeking to improve representation of Black Americans in the sport.
“It’s an honor to wear No. 42 every year, just as a reminder of everything Jackie had to go through to be able to play this game that we love so much,” Stanton said. “All the hardships for no reason, for the color of his skin. He was the right man for a job that he didn’t sign up for. It’s good to honor that.”
The Players Alliance is honoring Robinson’s life and legacy with the launch of a Breaking Barriers campaign, including a commitment to support the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
“He paved the way for me to be able to play,” Stanton said. “I want to respect that and help any way I can.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone is also participating, donating his paycheck for Friday’s game.
“When you consider the backdrop of what’s going on in the country over the last couple of years and the emergence of The Players Alliance,” Boone said, “I think [Jackie Robinson Day] takes on even more meaning maybe this year.”
Funds raised on Friday will directly benefit the Alliance’s 2021 Gear For Good equipment distribution program. They will also amplify the organization’s mentorship, scholarship and access programs geared toward providing the tools needed to help make many Black kids’ baseball dreams a reality.
“It’s an honor for all that Jackie Robinson has meant to our sport,” Boone said. “He was a Hall of Fame player on the field, but more than that, he’s one of the most important figures in American history.”
Bigger than baseball
Stanton said that he considered joining Hicks on the bench for Monday’s game against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla., in response to the police-involved death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, Minn.
“It was difficult just to soak everything [in] in a short period of time,” Stanton said. “But for me, I decided to play. I was angry that day; I was going to be angry the next day and after that. It was still my duty to play and be ready to go. You have to be able to balance those two and find out the right thing to do in that situation.”
Hicks approached Boone that day and said that he was having difficulty preparing to play; Boone said that Hicks was visibly upset after reading news reports of the shooting. Stanton said that he supported Hicks’ decision to sit out.
“I don’t think there’s a direct right approach to it,” Stanton said. “It’s just whatever you feel individually at the time.”
Four Rays hitters were hit by pitches during last weekend’s series at Tropicana Field, prompting Tampa Bay’s Willy Adames to remark on Friday: “Every action has a reaction.”
Boone said that he hopes cooler heads will prevail.
“We hit a few of their guys unintentionally,” Boone said. “We understand that’s frustrating, being on the other side of that when you get guys hit. I hope it’s two really good teams that are going to be fighting it out on the field — baseball, that is.”
Jordan Montgomery, who is scheduled to start on Saturday, said that he believes the budding rivalry between the Yankees and Rays is the natural effect of having two competitive teams battling in the same division.
“I wouldn’t say there’s tensions; that’s kind of built up in the media sometimes,” Montgomery said. “I think we’re just trying to play baseball. Guys don’t want to get hit; pitchers don’t want to hit guys. I pitched inside, and I lost two balls. It just happens, it’s baseball. We’re going to be professionals, do our job and play some good baseball.”
This date in Yankees history
April 16, 2009: The Yankees played their inaugural regular-season game at the current Yankee Stadium. CC Sabathia threw the first pitch, Johnny Damon recorded the first hit and Jorge Posada hit the first home run. The Indians defeated the Yankees, 10-2.