Some people have a calendar reminder set on that date because it’s the final day to file state and federal taxes without paying a penalty.
In Major League Baseball, April 15 represents the anniversary of Mr. Jack “Jackie” Robinson breaking the color barrier for African American players in 1947.
In 2009 the league began a tradition to pay homage and commemorate Robinson’s courage and legacy. Every April 15, each player, manager and umpire respectfully wears No.42 on their uniform.
However, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain doesn’t wait until April 15 to celebrate one of his idols. That’s just the one date where he’s allowed to wear No.42 on the outside.
Every game before that date. And every game after. No.42 is underneath his Brewers jersey, on a custom undershirt that Under Armour made for him.
On the front is a silhouette of Robinson infamously sliding into home plate and stealing the base. On the back is a No.42, with the words “thank you” through the middle.
“I wear it every single day,” Cain said during a conversation with the Wisconsin Sports Zone. “That just shows how much I appreciate what he did. Not only for me but a lot of a lot of African Americans.
“He’s a very unique person. A very special person and he’s definitely one of my heroes for sure.”
As you walk towards the front entrance of the Brewers’ training facility in Arizona, there are placards and large number statues honoring some of the team’s legendary players and staff members.
Robin Yount, Rollie Fingers and of course Bob Uecker are on display.
Despite never playing for a Milwaukee franchise, Robinson’s number is among them as well. The same way it’s displayed proudly in the Brewers ring of retired numbers at Miller Park.
The league officially retired No.42 in 1997. It hangs in every major league ballpark.
Cain said it’s “awesome” to see the subtle reminders of African American players who came before him. Not just Robinson, but Henry “Hank” Aaron, Larry Doby and other revolutionaries as well.
Doby broke the color barrier for the American League, three months after Robinson did it in the National League.
“They went through something that I don’t think I could have went through,” Cain added. “And allow myself and other African American players to play this game.”
The goal now is to continue that legacy. Making baseball appealing to young African American players. Unfortunately, representation numbers are drastically sinking.
According to a 2019 USA Sports study, there were only 68 African American players on an active major league roster, injured or restricted list on Opening Day last season.
That’s out of a total of 882 players.
“For me growing up, a lot of African American kids didn’t play baseball,” Cain said. “It’s kind of basically going around and letting them know to be involved in all sports. It doesn’t have to be just football and basketball.”
A proud father of three, Cain added that he tries to teach his kids to be involved in as many sports as possible.
“I know a lot of athletic kids that chose just those two sports. Baseball is a sport where you can go out and be great at as well.”
Baseball isn’t the most accessible sport either. Finances are undoubtedly a deciding factor in whether or not a young kid decides to show interest in pursuing a game.
Gloves and bats are expensive. Balls consistently get lost and new ones need to be purchased. Fields aren’t necessarily a given at every park, especially in inner city Milwaukee, either.
Plus, it takes more than a handful of neighborhood friends to get a game going. The kids from ‘The Sandlot’ could barely field a complete roster.
Locally, the Brewers Community Foundation and MLB’s RBI league are working to combat that. Funding teams in the city and making baseball a reality for the youth, starting at a young age.
In this case RBI doesn’t stand for ‘Runs Batted In,’ but instead, ‘Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities.’
With American Family Insurance taking over naming rights to Miller Park in 2021, the Wisconsin based insurance company has also pledged money into refurbishing and building local youth and high school baseball fields.
“You just try to introduce them to the game,” Cain continued. “Introduce more African Americans to the game.
“I think that’s all you really do. Try to introduce them as much as possible and kind of go from there.”