Wearing the No. 42 is an honor Major League players, managers and coaches have once a year on Jackie Robinson Day, April 15, to remember the legacy Robinson left, not only in baseball but on the world. This year, USA Softball was able to do the same.
Gearing up for the Tokyo Summer Olympics, Team USA is hosting an April training camp in Vero Beach, Fla. The players are training, playing and staying at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex. This facility, formerly home to the Spring Training site of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, holds a lot of history for the pioneer it’s named after.
“To be able to walk round and see the Jackie Robinson murals and see all the different things that represent where we are at is just one of those pinch-me moments,” said catcher Amanda Chidester.
In addition to training in the same place Robinson did, Team USA wore No. 42 on its practice jerseys to commemorate the anniversary of Robinson’s 1947 Major League debut when he broke the color barrier.
“The USA across the front and the Jackie Robinson on the back … for all of us to be able to come together on the special day is just a great combination,” said Chidester. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.”
For another member of Team USA, wearing Robinson’s number brought back memories of her college career at UCLA. As a former Bruin, Delaney Spaulding said sharing the same training space as Robinson for the second time in her career is an amazing experience.
“When they told us that we we’re going to be wearing our own No. 42 practice shirts, I was really excited,” Spaulding said. “I’ve obviously never worn 42 during a game or practice, so it was something that was really special. … No. 42 is also retired at UCLA now, so it was definitely a cool experience.”
Cat Osterman, a 2004 and ’08 Olympic veteran on the team, noted that Robinson’s legacy transcends the sport of baseball.
“I think it is an honor to be here on Jackie Robinson Day in a stadium that’s named after him,” said Osterman. “Just to know his history and his legacy, to be able to be in that environment on that day is special. … It was really cool to look around and everyone to see No. 42 where he’s celebrated again outside of his sport — for all of us to embrace what he did and break those barriers down.”
Infielder Ali Aguilar said honoring Robinson’s legacy by wearing his number was a humbling experience for the whole team. She said training in a facility named after him serves as a reminder that some things are bigger than sports.
“For him to set the lead as a Black man and then us as women getting to do that as well, we are just excited to follow along in that,” said Aguilar. “We know there is more to come and we get to be an example for the future female athletes that are coming through.”