Jackie Robinson's Daughter Comes Back to Baseball

By Ross Atkin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, October 14, 1997 | Go to article overview

Jackie Robinson's Daughter Comes Back to Baseball


Ross Atkin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Sharon Robinson, the daughter of black baseball trailblazer Jackie Robinson, has forged her own path in life as a midwife and teacher at such prestigious academic institutions as Yale, Columbia, Howard, and Georgetown Universities. She's even become a "football mom" despite her initial aversion to the sport.

This year, however, it was time to come "home," to reconnect with the national pastime in a way that delights her and she is sure would please her father.

In July, with baseball continuing its yearlong celebration of Jackie Robinson's barrier-breaking entrance into the big leagues, Major League Baseball announced that she would fill a new position: director of educational programming. "It's a nice fit for baseball and for me," she says from her modest office in MLB's Manhattan headquarters. "The position kind of percolated out of the 50th anniversary activities." She hadn't been thinking of going into baseball and was contemplating working on a national level for a women's organization. The anniversary, however, inspired her to approach Len Coleman, the president of the National League and chairman of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. "We wanted to find some ways to capitalize and continue the positive feelings we've gotten from the anniversary. We didn't want it to be just a one-year celebration," she explains. Ms. Robinson sees her new position as a natural outgrowth of volunteer work she was doing visiting schools to talk about her dad's pivotal role in baseball and social history. "We're looking at creative ways to incorporate baseball into learning," she says of her current activities. A main focus will be a pilot program aimed at children in Grades 4, 5, and 6. The program will draw on baseball themes to approach school topics such as math, science, and history. "In math, we might talk about how you can calculate the speed of a pitch," Robinson says. Roughly 200,000 students will receive materials during next year's seven-city rollout from Los Angeles to New York City, and Robinson doesn't want the educational outreach to begin and end with her. She wants major-league players involved, visiting schools as well as teaching on the field. "I want to make sure we bring classrooms to the ballpark, so that children can talk with the coaches and athletes and have some concreteness to the learning," she explains. "I want them to go to a practice so they can sit down and talk. Of course, we can arrange a trip to a game as well." Teaching values, Robinson emphasizes, is important to baseball. To achieve this, she is working on a memoir that teaches nine values associated with her father, such as determination, courage, and teamwork. …

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