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04/10/08 12:15 AM ET

Six Twins plan to honor Robinson

Players reflect on what it means to recognize legendary icon

CHICAGO -- Twins outfielder Craig Monroe remembers the feeling he had last season when he first stepped in front of the mirror on April 15 and looked down at the number on his jersey -- 42.

It was a moment that almost drew a tear to Monroe's eye as he thought about getting the chance to honor a man he feels has impacted his own life significantly, Jackie Robinson.

"To put that jersey on, it just made me so proud," said Monroe, who was with the Tigers at that time last season. "As black players now, we don't exactly know what he felt like and what it meant for him to go through all the things that he went through. You start to think in this day and age now, could you handle it? Could you have gone through the things he went through and still be as good a player as he was?

"It takes a special man to do that. So to me, it's a special gift to wear that number and I'll wear it anytime I get a chance to."

Monroe will get that opportunity once again this season. Having retired the number in 1997 on the 50th anniversary of Robinson's first Major League game, Commissioner Bud Selig granted permission again this season to lift the restriction on 42 to help celebrate the man who broke baseball's color barrier.

A total of six Twins will don the No. 42 on April 15 in honor of the late Robinson including Monroe, Delmon Young, Denard Span, Livan Hernandez, Matt Guerrier and first base coach Jerry White.

While Monroe wore the number last season, as did Hernandez and White, this will be the first time for Young, Span and Guerrier to honor Robinson.

Young, who was with Tampa Bay last season, said he didn't get the chance to participate last year as Carl Crawford was chosen as the team's lone representative to wear No. 42. But Young will gladly take the opportunity this season.

"The guy set the standard for African-Americans in the sport," Young said. "I would be honored to wear the jersey."

Span echoed Young's sentiments.

"It's something I feel like I have to do," Span said. "If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here. He opened up a lot of doors for African-Americans and not just us, but minorities period. I think we owe him that."

Introduced in 2004, Jackie Robinson Day was created to honor the enduring impact of Jackie 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.

And it's not just African-Americans who feel impacted by the day. Guerrier is the only non-minority of the six Twins who will be wearing the number. He said that he made the decision to wear 42 in part as a tribute to his dad who works for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, specializing in Civil Rights.

"He mentioned last year that it would mean a lot to him if I wore it," Guerrier said. "But it was a little too late. His birthday is coming up now and it seems perfect timing. He was hoping to bid on [a jersey] last year so he could donate to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Now this will give him that chance."

Robinson's memory lives on today in initiatives such as the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which was founded by Rachel Robinson in 1973 to provide education and leadership development opportunities for minority students with strong capabilities, but limited financial resources, as well as 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.

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