As people walk along the concourse of Jackie Robinson Stadium, they’re greeted by a bronze statue of the former Bruin and Brooklyn Dodger in his uniform, on one knee, with his arms folded, while looking out at the playing field.
The plaque underneath the statue reads, “The Name. The Legend. The Man.”
In case anyone on the UCLA baseball team needed a reminder of who they represent and what the circle with the number 42 in right-center field stands for, the team had a special screening of the film “42” on Monday.
The players said the film, based on Robinson’s life, not only served to reinforce the team’s respect for Robinson and the adversity he faced as the first African-American to play professional baseball, but also helped bring the current squad closer.
“It kind of brought us together and showed us where this whole program came from. It was a good team-bonding experience,” said sophomore catcher Shane Zeile.
“Obviously, we play at this awesome Jackie Robinson Stadium … it’s just awesome to play for such an inspirational baseball character in history.”
Today, No. 17 UCLA (20-9) will host visiting Loyola Marymount in the first of a three-game series which will conclude with a celebration of Jackie Robinson Day on Sunday.
The Bruins will have a pregame ceremony honoring Robinson on Sunday and, as part of the festivities, UCLA will unveil an addition to the stadium – a mural of the school’s first four-sport letterman.
“I think that’s amazing,” said junior outfielder Brenton Allen of the Sunday honors. “I love playing on this field – Jackie Robinson Stadium. It really hits you that it’s something that’s bigger than you.”
Allen’s RBI triple to the wall in right-center field, where Robinson’s number 42 hangs, on Tuesday night helped put the Bruins on top in their 5-1 win over the Hawai’i Rainbows. The win ended a two-game skid for UCLA.
“We wanted to get back on our feet basically and I think we did that,” said coach John Savage of the win. “You’ve got to give the guys credit.”
After four consecutive weekend conference series, the Bruins get a break from Pac-12 play this weekend with a series against the Lions (17-15).
While the head coach at UC Irvine, Savage worked with current LMU coach Jason Gill who was an assistant under him. Savage said the Lions are well-coached and will not come into Jackie Robinson Stadium intimidated by the Bruins or the moment.
“They’ve played a lot of good people this year so they’re not going to be coming in here wide-eyed,” Savage said. “I expect them to come out and get after us and I hope we get after them.”