HOUSTON, TX - The Astros will join the rest of Major League Baseball in celebrating Jackie Robinson Day. Sixty-seven years ago today, Jackie Robinson broke MLB's color barrier on April 15, 1947, starting at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers vs. the Boston Braves at Ebbets Field.
All players throughout baseball will wear Jackie's retired #42 on their jerseys tonight in tribute to his legacy. Robinson's #42 remains the only number retired by any major professional sports league. MLB started Jackie Robinson Day in 2004, which was when his number was retired throughout the sport by Commissioner Bud Selig, who has often said that Robinson's breaking of the color barrier was baseball's proudest moment.
Young ballplayers from the Astros Urban Youth Academy will take the field with the Astros starting lineup for tonight's 7:10 p.m. game vs. the Kansas City Royals at Minute Maid Park. Shawn Taylor, a member of the Astros ownership group, will throw out one of the ceremonial first pitches. A special video tribute for Robinson will also be shown during the pregame ceremony.
CIVIL RIGHTS GAME, BEACON AWARDS LUNCHEON
Over the past two seasons, the Astros have taken part in several of Major League Baseball's initiatives to promote diversity in the game. On May 30th of this season, the Astros will host the 2014 Civil Rights Game, which was developed by MLB to pay tribute to those who fought on and off the field for equal rights for all Americans. The game vs. Baltimore, which will include a special pregame ceremony featuring a performance by recording star Aloe Blacc, will be at 7:10 p.m. and will be aired on MLB Network.
Prior to the game that afternoon, the MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon will be held at the Hilton of the Americas Hotel, near Minute Maid Park. This year's MLB Beacon Award winners are esteemed poet Dr. Maya Angelou, Motown founder Berry Gordy and NFL Hall of Famer and actor Jim Brown, all of whom will be honored both at the luncheon and later that evening at Minute Maid Park. Robin Roberts, one of the nation's most recognizable broadcasters and co-anchor of ABC's Good Morning America, will be the keynote speaker at the luncheon. For more information, visit astros.com/civilrightsgame.
MLB DIVERSITY INITIATIVES
In addition to the this year's Civil Rights Game, the Astros also hosted the 2013 MLB Diversity Summit, which is a sports employment and business opportunity career and trade fair that provides attendees with access to human resource executives from all 30 MLB clubs. The Astros hired five individuals from the 2013 Diversity Summit, while 47 were hired overall by MLB clubs. In 2012 and 2013, the Astros hosted the Annual Urban Invitational, a nationally-televised, round-robin collegiate baseball tournament designed by MLB to give Historically Black Colleges and their baseball programs national exposure.
Also in 2013, the Astros hosted the sixth annual Breakthrough Series, which is a collegiate and professional scouting showcase featuring a diverse group of many of the top high school baseball players in the country.
ASTROS URBAN YOUTH ACADEMY
In 2010, the Astros became the first MLB club to have its own MLB Urban Youth Academy, which provides free, year-round baseball and softball instruction to youth from underserved and urban areas. Located in Acres Homes, the Astros Urban Youth Academy serves over 1,000 kids from throughout the Houston region and beyond each year. The Astros staff and run the facility year-round. Several current and former Astros players and executives visit the Academy each year.
COMMUNITY LEADERS PROGRAM
In 2012, Astros Owner and Chairman Jim Crane launched the Astros Community Leaders program, which has committed up to $18.0 million over five years for the refurbishment and maintenance of city-owned, public, youth ballfields and programming in disadvantaged Houston neighborhoods.
The program, which is one of the most expansive, charitable, field-renovation programs in professional sports, is a partnership between the Astros Foundation, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department and generous local, corporate sponsors. The Community Leaders program was created and jumpstarted by Crane, who worked with Houston Mayor Annise Parker to develop the concept.
To date, 16 youth baseball and softball fields have been refurbished by the Astros Community Leaders program with more scheduled in the future.