Anne Arundel athletes say message of '42' still relevant

Arundel High School sophomore Chloe Hill entered a screening of the motion picture "42" on Thursday indebted to the film's main character, baseball player Jackie Robinson.

The film depicts Robinson's struggles and triumphs in becoming the first African-American to play in the major leagues, breaking the national pastime's color barrier on April 15, 1947.


"Thanks to him, I'm able to play," said Hill, who is black and plays for Arundel High's junior varsity softball team.

Hill was among 300 junior varsity baseball and softball players from all 12 Anne Arundel County public high schools to attend a screening hosted by OriolesREACH and Major League Baseball at Hoyt's West Nursery Cinemas in Linthicum.


Greg LeGrand, supervisor of the county schools' athletic program, said it's important for students to learn the Brooklyn Dodgers trailblazer's story, which he said transcends sports to reflect American culture.

"For them to learn something about the story is paramount, and just seeing them all coming together for it might have a greater emphasis," LeGrand said.

"I don't think they have any idea of what [Robinson] went through," he said of today's young players. "They might know his name, or go to Camden Yards and see that the number 42 is retired and say, 'Why is there a blue 42 on the side?' But I don't believe they know the perils he had to go through and just the sheer everyday pressure that he was under.

"Ever since we [signed up for the screening] there has been a buzz around our schools about, 'Why go with this?' " he said. "It's fostered a lot of discussions."

LeGrand said school officials ensured that students would engage in discussions even before they arrived at the theater, using 10 talking points on Robinson's legacy during the bus ride.

Before the screening, Orioles officials offered a quiz with questions relating to Robinson, with prizes of Orioles jerseys and tickets.

Among the questions: Who is the only major league player still wearing No. 42 regularly? Dozens of students knew it was New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera, who, like others wearing 42 when the league retired the number, was allowed to keep it for the duration of his career.

Many who attended the screening had not seen the film previously, but Arundel High freshmen Matt Looser and Ronald Poole had seen it twice.

"I just thought it was really good and very grabbing," Looser said.

"I didn't think it was going to be that good," said Chesapeake High sophomore Leeann Myers. "I was surprised. It was good. It was horrible how they treated him, but he actually took it."

"I would not have been able to just sit there with everyone saying that stuff about me," said Chesapeake sophomore Jessica Sullivan. "He was strong."

Hill said Robinson's story offers lessons that still resonate.


"As a team, just in general, playing sports you always have to work hard," Hill said, "That's what you have to overcome. In high school, you have to work for your position because it's not given to you. Thankfully, we don't have to go through what he went through."

Orioles spokeswoman Monica Barlow said every major league team is hosting screenings of "42" for students as part of an initiative orchestrated by Commissioner Bud Selig.

Thursday's screening was among several things the Orioles have done to honor Robinson. Earlier, OriolesREACH and center fielder Adam Jones hosted a private screening for more than 100 players from the Orioles' Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program. The screening was held at Landmark Theatres Harbor East in Baltimore.

In April, the Orioles joined other major league teams in honoring Robinson by having all players wear No. 42 for a game, a tradition begun after the league retired Robinson's jersey number in 1997.

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