True Star Celebrates Jackie Robinson Day

by Apr 24, 2024Community0 comments

Southpaw shares a moment with little league players during Jackie Robinson Day at Guaranteed Rate Field on the city’s Southside.

Monday, April 15 was Jackie Robinson Day across Major League Baseball, celebrating the life and legacy of the first African-American to play in the major leagues. In 1947, Robinson took the field as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn wearing #42 on his jersey. Now 77 years later, on the Southside of Chicago, the White Sox and Royals faced off in a divisional matchup, all wearing that same #42 on their backs.

The festivities began before the game, where I was able to speak with Troy Williams, manager of the Amateur City Elite team and overall community baseball programs for the Sox.

“We get out in the community, and we provide programming for young people around the city,” Williams said. “That [involves] the Chicago Park District. We partner with a bunch of local little leagues, and then we have our trademark program, the Amateur City Elite (ACE) travel baseball team.”

Troy Williams talks to little league players.

“The White Sox created ACE in 2007 to reverse the declining interest and participation in baseball among African Americans and to prepare each participant to succeed in life beyond the field,” according to the White Sox. “The ACE program serves as a source of hope and inspiration for the community.”

So, what does Williams do as manager of the team? Well, a lot of the same things that an average youth baseball manager would do, and a little bit more. “My job entails practice planning, picking tournaments for the kids to participate in, providing them schedules for academic programming, and overall just giving them an experience where they can go out and showcase their talents for scouts, colleges, and pro scouts,” he explained.

True Star Media journalist Jermale Dabney interviews Jackie Robinson Student Contest winners Matteo Leakes and Arinek Shorter on the White Sox field.

Williams also mentioned some summer camp opportunities for youth in the coming months. “We’re getting out into every community in Chicago, providing very basic-level training for young people,” he said.

I also got the opportunity to talk to two of the Jackie Robinson Student Contest winners, where they created a piece of artwork in honor of Robinson — Matteo Leakes, a 7th grader at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, and Arinek Shorter, a senior at Percy L. Julian High School. I asked them one simple question: What does Jackie Robinson and Jackie Robinson Day mean to you?

True Star photographer Christopher “Lock” Lockridge captures images of the White Sox mascot Southpaw.

“Jackie Robinson means a lot to me,” Leakes said. “He was able to persevere through hard times, and he was able to prove that he was good enough to play…He made a way for African-Americans to play in MLB.”

“Jackie Robinson to me is an example of just stepping out on faith and just trying!” Shorter said. “Just no matter what, stepping out and trying.”

Williams, a Chicago native, was asked the same question at the end of our interview. “I mean, this day is special to me,” he started. “What Jackie did for our community from a breaking barriers standpoint, and all the things he endured physically, mentally, emotionally, just for our kids to be able to play. There’s no me…without the suffering that Jackie Robinson went through.”

Chicago Bears Offensive Assistant Jennifer King throws out the ceremonial first pitch of the game.

After the ceremonial first pitch from Chicago Bears Offensive Assistant Jennifer King, the first Black woman to be on the Bears coaching staff, the game began, and it was yet another rough one for the Sox. They scored no runs in a game for the sixth time in their first 16 games of the year, joining the 1907 Brooklyn Superbas (yes, that was a real team) as the only two clubs to reach this point. Despite a solid major league debut for Sox starter Nick Nastrini (5 innings, 2 runs, 3 hits, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts) the offense failed to respond to a solo home run hit by the Royals’ Vinnie Pasquantino and an RBI single from Kyle Isbel, en route to a 2-0 Royals win.

Despite the loss for the hometown Sox, it was still a wonderful celebration of the life, career, and legacy of Mr. Jackie Robinson. On behalf of True Star, I’d like to thank the entire White Sox organization for their helpfulness and hospitality. Let’s never let the story of Robinson ever be forgotten.

True Star staffers Jermale Dabney and Christopher “Lock” Lockridge.

 

By Jermale Dabney, Junior, Lindblom Math and Science Academy

Instagram: @jermale_d

 

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