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Rays honor Jackie Robinson MLB debut with community garden project

On the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's historic MLB debut, Rays staff and volunteers with build and paint 12 garden beds.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays are making sure to celebrate the anniversary of a historic moment in baseball history.

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier, becoming the first Black man allowed to play Major League Baseball. Now exactly 75 years later, the Rays will be honoring this historical moment with community events, a news release explains.

Here's a breakdown of what to expect in the coming days.

Friday, April 15

In recognition of Robinson's life and care for others, staff members with the Rays will partner with volunteers from Bayfront Health St. Petersburg and Nixon & Co. Consulting Group.

They will be building and painting 12 garden beds from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the 16th Street Community Garden in St. Petersburg.

By beautifying the land and making a garden, project leaders believe its an opportunity to improve health in local neighborhoods.

“We are excited to partner with the Tampa Bay Rays to establish a community garden that will make a long-lasting impact on families,” Bayfront Health St. Petersburg President John Moore said in a statement. “Creating access to healthy food will lead to better nutrition, and increase physical and mental health.”

16th Street Community Garden Director Lindsey Nixon said the project's goal is to "bridge the gap in food disparity. We want to make healthy foods available and easily affordable." Once grown, the fresh fruits and vegetables will be available to locals for free.

Later on in the day, the Rays will open a three-game series with the Chicago White Sox. All Tampa players and coaches will have jerseys and patches decked out with Robinson's iconic uniform No. 42.

Credit: AP
In this 1952 file photo, Brooklyn Dodgers baseball player Jackie Robinson poses.

Saturday, April 16

The Rays will be hosting an event at Belmont Heights Little League, which is a historic league in East Tampa serving more than 400 youth players.

The MLB team will donate equipment and provide free concessions for event-goers. The event starts at 9 a.m. and is set to run through 1 p.m. at 2101 W. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Tampa.

Friday, April 22

All fans going to the Rays vs Red Sox game at Tropicana Field will receive a Jackie Robinson No. 42 hat before the game starts.

The hats are on a first-come, first-serve basis. For ticket information, click here.

The Rays will also make the annual investment of $100,000 to support organizations committed to ending systematic racism.

Where is the money exactly going? Five local nonprofit organizations were selected as Racial Equity Grant Fund recipients in honor of Robinson's nine core values, which are:

  • Courage
  • Determination
  • Teamwork
  • Persistence
  • Integrity
  • Citizenship
  • Justice
  • Commitment
  • Excellence

Arts Conservatory for Teens, Brain Expansions Scholastic Training, Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services, Pace Center for Girls Hillsborough County and The Skills Center will each receive $20,000. These groups will be recognized during the game April 22.

"Jackie Robinson paved the way and set an example, not just through his impact in baseball, but how he lived his life — with determination, integrity, and a commitment to social justice," Rays President Brian Auld said in a statement. "Our organization shares these core beliefs.

“From supporting local non-profits through grant programs to building sustainable gardens to strengthen the African American community, we remain committed to finding ways to create positive change for all.”

The grant program was established in 2020 by joints efforts from the Rays Baseball Foundation and Rowdies Soccer Fund to "build power within communities that have been historically overlooked and purposefully disadvantaged due to racism."

More information on the Racial Equity Grant Recipients can be found here.

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