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Marlins players, staff, alumni reflect on Jackie Robinson’s impact

Current and former black athletes explain how Robinson’s bravery and persistence inspires them, on and off the field.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Recorded on Monday and posted to YouTube on Wednesday, the Marlins coordinated a Jackie Robinson Day-themed roundtable discussion, “Connected to 42.” Former Marlins catcher Charles Johnson served as the moderator for a group comprised of fellow alumni Cliff Floyd and Juan Pierre, and active team members Lewis Brinson, Jazz Chisholm, Sterling Sharp, Stephen Tarpley and bench coach/offensive coordinator James Rowson.

Every member of the panel, including Chisholm—born more than a quarter-century after the Hall of Famer passed away—was astounded and inspired by the hardship that Robinson endured in breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier.

Though Rowson finished his playing career in the low minors, he is equally appreciative for Robinson, who fought to open doors for blacks to join MLB coaching staffs.

During the roundtable, multiple players acknowledged that there are still biases working against African Americans at the amateur level. They are often encouraged to focus on basketball or football over baseball for various cultural and socioeconomic reasons. Tarpley described how Robinson’s perseverance motivated him at a stage in his development when he was seeing limited playing time. The left-hander accepted that he would need to make the most of limited opportunities, just like No. 42 did.

Johnson also broached the topic of baserunning and freedom of expression on the field, considering that Robinson twice led the National League in stolen bases. Pierre connects that to the current Marlins, who ran aggressively and successfully during 2020 Spring Training. The individuals who best epitomized that gameplay style? Chisholm and black outfielder Monte Harrison.

All eight speakers contributed valuable points to the discussion, so make time to listen to the full version:

In addition to the roundtable, I recommend reading this article from Claire Smith of The Undefeated. It explores the stunning lack of diversity behind the plate, noting that Johnson (long since retired) is the last black catcher to serve as the primary starter at the position for any major league team.

And finally, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill explained Robinson’s wide-ranging impact to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com.