(NEW YORK) — In this week’s Sunday Spotlight, New York Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera reflects on the new film 42 and carrying on Jackie Robinson’s legacy.
Rivera shares a special connection with the baseball legend who broke the color line — he’s the last Major League Baseball player to wear Jackie Robinson’s number, 42, which was retired by the league in 1997 for all new players.
And it’s an honor that Rivera doesn’t take lightly.
“It’s not only a privilege or a satisfaction,” Rivera said. “It’s a responsibility.”
Rivera announced his retirement in March, and with his exit, the No. 42 will only appear on baseball jerseys one day a year: Jackie Robinson Day.
On Monday, April 15 marks that special day in Major League Baseball where all players and on-field personnel wear the famous number to mark the anniversary date of the iconic player’s first major league game.
But for the player who currently wears Robinson’s number each and every game, the meaning behind No. 42 comes with a unique challenge.
“As a minority, [to] come from Panama and be the last one to wear number 42, I think it’s a lot of pressure,” Rivera said. “I accept the challenge.”
Robinson was known for far more than his batting average and talent for stealing bases. He was the first African American to step up to bat in the major leagues, and is credited with breaking the color barrier in Major League baseball.
Today, Rivera thanks Robinson for paving the way for future minority players.
“It took a man like Mr. Jackie Robinson to break that barrier,” Rivera said. “And thank God for him, because we enjoy these moments now because of him.”
Jackie Robinson Day comes just after the release of the movie 42, which tells the story of Robinson’s 10 year career with the Brooklyn Dodgers and how he made his mark on American history.
When asked about his own legacy, Rivera reflected on his career spent wearing the iconic No. 42.
“I have tried my best, and tried to keep the responsibility and do my job well,” Rivera said.
Another New York Yankee shares a special connection with Jackie Robinson.
Yankees slugger Robinson Cano is named after the Brooklyn Dodgers legend and wears 24 (42 in reverse) in Robinson’s honor.
“That is what my Dad told me, that he named me after Jackie and it’s a blessing to have the name,” Cano said.
“We all know, especially myself… we [are] here because of him,” Cano added. “He opened the door for a lot of guys… you’ve got people from all over the world, guys play from all over the world.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Joe Sutton, CNN
Farida Fawzy, CNN
Christine Brennan, Tim Hume and Jill Martin, CNN
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com