Robinson honored at Nationals Park

Robinson honored at Nationals Park

WASHINGTON -- Rachel Robinson, the widow of the legendary Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier in April 1947, attended the 49th annual Congressional Baseball Game, which saw the Democrats defeat the Republicans, 13-5, on Tuesday night at Nationals Park.

Before the game, Democrats and Republicans honored Robinson by having her throw out the first pitch. And though she was on the mound for the ceremony, she had college student Carol Guerrero throw the pitch instead.

Through the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which was established by Rachel Robinson in 1973, Guerrero was provided a scholarship to attend Boston University.

The foundation carries on Jackie's quest for equal opportunity and excellence by providing college scholarships and leadership development programs to minority students who have both records of academic distinction and financial need.

"Rachel is an extension of her husband, Jackie Robinson," said Congressman Lacy Clay (D-Mo.). "Jackie Robinson means everything to the game of baseball. He is what the players are all about now. He started it all. He is an historic figure."

Robinson was in the nation's capital visiting congressmen earlier in the day to raise money to help to build the Jackie Robinson Museum, which is expected to be located on the ground floor of 75 Varick St. in New York City.

According to Robinson, the museum has raised $14.5 million and needs $27.5 million more for completion.

Among the goals of the museum:

• Convey the historic significance of Jackie Robinson's life within the larger context of African-American pioneers and the cultural changes of the 20th century.

• Encourage new ways of thinking about both Robinson and social change.

• Foster dialogue among visitors and lead them to use lessons from Robinson's life.

• Conserve, archive and collect the objects and documents that showcase Robinson's achievements.

• Highlight the work of the Jackie Robinson Foundation and promote its programs to new and wider audiences.

• Partner with public schools to create programming that enriches regional curriculums.

• Develop an online "virtual museum" to provide a visitor experience for people throughout the U.S. and around the world.

• Provide a venue for lectures, concerts and receptions.

• Enhance the cultural landscape of downtown New York and collaborate with such local institutions as the Tribeca Cinema and Sports Museum of America.

"[The foundation has] a 97 percent graduation rate, which is double the national average," Rachel Robinson said. "So we have a great track record there. The museum is a natural followup on that because we want to create a living legacy for Jack.

"We have wonderful artifacts, many ideas on how we are going to run the museum. It's going to be an interactive place. It's going to be a place where families and children come. It's going to be a place that we hope will encourage, stimulate and challenge them and, in some way, inspire them to do more themselves. That's what we are working on. We have space for conferences, for speeches and interaction with an audience, which will be important to our educational piece."

Robinson is proud of the fact that she has been able to keep her husband's legacy alive since his passing in 1972. Asked what she would like people to learn about him through the foundation and the museum, she said, "He had a saying that we use in our literature: 'A life is not important except in the impact it has on the lives of others.' He really lived it. He believed it.

"He wasn't so concerned about being remembered. He said being liked was not what he wanted. Being respected was what he wanted. So I think he is being respected, and I think he is being memorialized and will live on through these kids that we are putting out there, and they are going to have leadership roles. I'm certain of that."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.