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04/15/09 11:31 PM ET

Hairston dons No. 42 with great pride

Outfielder recalls own grandfather's breakthrough to Majors

NEW YORK -- For the third time in as many years, San Diego outfielder Scott Hairston gladly pulled on a jersey that had No. 42 stitched on the back as the Padres and the Mets honored Jackie Robinson Day on Wednesday at Citi Field.

"It's a huge deal, because of what Jackie has meant to baseball and the African-American community," Hairston said after the Padres lost to the Mets, 7-2. "What he did and what he endured is amazing. I think it's important for people in baseball to recognize what he went through."

On the 62nd anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League baseball, players around the league wore No. 42 to honor Robinson, who broke into baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

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Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson, spoke to the crowd during a pregame ceremony to honor her husband's achievement at the first-year, $800 million stadium which features the Jackie Robinson Rotunda behind home plate where fans enter.

Robinson is an important figure for Hairston, an African-American. His grandfather, Sam Hairston, played in the Negro Leagues and eventually made it to the Major Leagues to play for the Chicago White Sox in 1951 after Robinson paved the way.

"[My grandfather] went through similar things that Jackie went through, but Jackie did it on the big stage -- he was the first one," Hairston said. "There was a lot of pressure on him, and the way that he handled it was amazing."

"I'm glad we as players get to honor him. The way it works out, it is special for us to be in New York and the place where Jackie made history."

Cliff Floyd, who is on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder but is with the team on this road trip, wore No. 42 as well as a stand-in for catcher Nick Hundley, who was in the bullpen with pitcher Kevin Correia.

"It was awesome," Floyd said. "It goes back to what Jackie Robinson did for this game. It gives black athletes in the future a glance at what they can do, not just in baseball, but in life."

Introduced in 2004, Jackie Robinson Day was created to honor the enduring impact of Robinson and his legacy as the first African-American player to break the Major League color barrier.

Robinson played his first Major League game at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947, as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Robinson breaking the Major League color barrier in 1997, Robinson's uniform number 42 was retired throughout the Major Leagues.

Robinson's memory lives on today in initiatives such as the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which was founded by his widow, Rachel Robinson, in 1973 to provide education and leadership development opportunities for minority students with strong capabilities but limited financial resources. The foundation also supports Breaking Barriers, which utilizes baseball-themed activities to reinforce literacy skills, mathematics, science and social history in addition to addressing critical issues of character development, such as conflict resolution and self-esteem.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.