Players honored to be part of JR Day
All Dodgers plus Mike Cameron of the Padres wore No. 42
LOS ANGELES -- On a day when the Dodgers ran the bases like Jackie Robinson once did, emotions ran high as players, former players, coaches and fans took part in an evening to remember the man whose sacrifice 60 years ago paved the way for some the best players in the game today.
Players from both the Dodgers and the Padres were honored to take part in the ceremony and to play in front of an emotional sellout crowd at Dodger Stadium.
"I got goosebumps and I wasn't even on the field," said Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, who was in the bullpen warming up pitcher Randy Wolf during the pregame ceremonies. "It just goes to show that everybody loved Jackie."
All the players on the Dodgers donned the No. 42, and Mike Cameron, who participated in the ceremonial first pitch, wore it for the Padres.
Juan Pierre, who also participated in the first pitch, said the night was special, especially getting to meet Hank Aaron and to see all the No. 42s in the infield as he stood in center field.
"[All the players] should remember this for the rest of their lives," Pierre said. "I got to shake Hank Aaron's hand. That was cool."
Cameron expressed similar joy after the game.
"Breaking the barrier, that's just special," Cameron said.
The moment was bittersweet for outfielder Matt Kemp, who was unable to play because of an injury to his right shoulder. Kemp said before the game that it was an honor to wear No. 42, but he wished he could be out there on the field during the game.
After the game, it didn't matter much whether he played or watched. He was just happy to have been a part of it.
"That was the best game I've ever watched," Kemp said. "Did you hear the National Anthem? I had goose bumps all over."
When Robinson broke the color barrier 60 years ago, he didn't just open the door for African-American players, he opened the door for Latino players, as well. Dodgers coach Manny Mota, who is from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, said Robinson was courageous and played with pride and dignity.
"He is a legend," Mota said. "Without him there would be no Frank Robinson, Felipe Alou or Omar Minaya."
Wilson Valdez, also from the Dominican Republic, started for the Dodgers at third base and said he was honored to be a part of this day in Dodgers' history.
"[Robinson] paved the way for us to play this game," Valdez said. "He was a very important person then and now. And it showed today."
The Dodgers played with the same energy and aggressiveness that once defined Robinson's legacy on the field. The team stole five bases and had six doubles as they ran wild on the Padres. First baseman Nomar Garciaparra was happy with the way the team played.
"To honor a man like Jackie means a lot to all of us," Garciaparra said. "And on an occasion like this, to play and win the way we did is great."
Jayson Addcox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.