The Astros, and Major League Baseball, celebrate Jackie Robinson.

Michael Bourn wishes he could have met Jackie Robinson, shake his hand and express gratitude for what the baseball pioneer did to pave the way for today’s players.

Instead, Bourn is one of dozens of Major Leaguers across the country helping educate today’s youth about who Robinson was, the legacy he left behind and how one courageous man took a lifetime’s worth of abuse so that players in the ensuing generations wouldn’t have to.

“It’s a day that you want to pay tribute to the first African-American player to play in the Major Leagues,” Bourn said, before addressing students from Cullen Middle School in Houston. “Willie Mays, Barry Bonds…whoever you want to talk about. They wouldn’t have had the chance if Jackie hadn’t broken the color barrier.”

Major League Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day on Friday — April 15, the 64th anniversary of the first time Robinson, baseball’s first black player, stepped onto a Major League field. The Astros were out and about in Houston in full force, visiting four area schools that participated in the “Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life” program.

Students were invited to submit entries for the Breaking Barriers Essay Contest, presented by Whataburger. Fourth through eighth graders wrote about their personal stories of overcoming barriers. The Astros received 686 essays from 34 schools, and from all of the entries, four were selected as the Houston-area winners: Charissa R. (C.E. King Middle School), Shivanki J. (The Honor Roll School), Rylie B. (Velasquez Elementary School) and Latrell S. (Cullen Middle School).

For her essay, Latrell wrote:

“My life flashed before my eyes. I thought to myself, ‘Will I live or will I die?’ The determination in my eyes said ‘run.’ Rushing through polluted water was gross at the time for a seven-year-old girl, but at least I was mature enough to know why I was running. (Hurricane) Katrina took away my life and home, but at least I knew I wasn’t alone. The tone in my attitude showed hopefulness and disturbance. All through that experience, I was holding back the mental abuse the storm put upon me. My mind was mostly disturbed, but I was determined to leave the past behind. On that moment, I was compeltely and extremely determined to live my new life.”

In addition to tickets to Friday’s game and on-field recognition, the schools were rewarded with a visit from an Astros player. Bourn, Bill Hall, Jason Bourgeois and Nelson Figueroa each visited one winning area school.

“I just want them to understand it’s a privilege to play baseball and if any of them play baseball, they need to understand who Jackie Robinson is,” Bourn said. “They need to know who he is and what this day represents and the opportunity that we get, to play at the highest level with the highest competition, is because of this man, who suffered a lot of enduring pain, physically and mentally.”

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In conjunction with Jackie Robinson Day, Major League Baseball launched a new site: IAM42.com, a new digital campaign designed for fans to make a personal connection to the legacy of Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson through online video sharing and social networking via Twitter and Facebook.

IAM42.com features personal video tributes from more than 60 current players and legends to honor the 64th Anniversary of Robinson’s historic moment, including Baseball Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Lou Brock and Andre Dawson and MLB All-Stars Jason Heyward, Prince Fielder, David Price, Mariano Rivera and David Wright.

Launching on Jackie Robinson Day, fans of all ages are encouraged to share their thoughts on the enduring impact of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier. The site will be updated throughout the year, in the lead-up to the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson Day, April 15, 2012.

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The Astros’ celebration of Jackie Robinson Day, in pictures:

Cullen Middle School assembly

Bourn, Dave Raymond at Cullen Middle School

Jason Bourgeois, Bill Brown at The Honor Roll School

Brett Dolan, Nelson Figueroa at Velasquez Elementary School.

Bill Hall at C.E. King Middle School

*Update 7:50 CT Friday: the Astros hosted a reception for past players and current Astros in honor of Jackie Robinson day. Hall of Famer Monte Irvin, a Houston resident who starred in the Negro Leagues, was in attendance. Here are some images from the Astros’ suite before the game:

Monte Irvin, Kevin Bass

Kevin Bass, Michael Bourn.

Bourn meets Irvin for the first time.

Irvin, Jimmy Wynn

Jason Bourgeois, J.C. Hartman, Enos Cabell, Michael Bourn, Kevin Bass, Bill Hall, Monte Irvin (front left), Jimmy Wynn (front right).

5 Comments

Alyson…..Great pictures, and a humbling day. You have to
wonder where baseball would be without these outstanding
role models. My hope is, that our young talented kids, don’t
turn their backs on the greatest sport ever played! Love
your stories! Thanks! Becky:) :)

Great pictures, but Bill Hall visited C.E. King Middle School, not the Honor Roll School.

Fixed…thank you!!!

WOW GOOOOOOOOO SHIVANKI :)

We are so proud of you Charissa!!! What an amazing accomplishment!!! You’re an amazing writer!!! Never stop reaching for the stars because you are going to go far!!! We love you!!! Thanks Mr. Hall and Mr. Deshaies for giving Charissa a day she will never forget!!! It was a pleasure meeting you both. Go Astros!!!!

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