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Sharon Robinson has lived out her legendary father’s values while forging her own path in life

Visiting Vero Beach for the RBI World Series, Robinson looks at memorabilia like this September 22, 1947, cover of Time magazine in the Jackie Robinson room in the JRTC.

Visiting Vero Beach for the RBI World Series, Robinson looks at memorabilia like this September 22, 1947, cover of Time magazine in the Jackie Robinson room in the JRTC.

At the unassuming corner of 43rd Avenue and Aviation Boulevard in Vero Beach, a squat blue and white sign still reads “Historic Dodgertown,” even though the name of the facility was changed this past April to the “Jackie Robinson Training Complex.” Tonight, in the year her father would have turned 100, Sharon Robinson, author and executive director of educational programming for Major League Baseball, is here to do one of the things she does best: speak to young people about character. 

The young men she is speaking to this evening are here competing in the RBI World Series. RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) is a Major League Baseball youth outreach program designed to increase participation in baseball and softball among underserved youth, while teaching teamwork and encouraging academic achievement. This is the first year the World Series is being held at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex, now its permanent home. 

Robinson is here to present awards to two young men who have written essays describing how they faced obstacles in their lives using principles that Jackie Robinson lived by. In her children’s book “Jackie’s 9,” Robinson describes her father’s values as courage, integrity, commitment, teamwork, determination, persistence, citizenship, justice and excellence. Tonight’s presentation is an offshoot of a larger, national program called Breaking Barriers: In Sports, in Life. Robinson developed it in conjunction with Scholastic in 1997. Designed to help children in fourth through ninth grades find their voices, it consists of character education and an essay competition, and it has reached more than 34 million youth and 4.6 million educators. 

It can take the better part of a lifetime to fully embrace your legacy, especially such a storied one as Sharon Robinson’s. When her father broke the color barrier in baseball, taking the field at first base as a Brooklyn Dodger on April 15, 1947, Sharon Robinson hadn’t yet been born. In 1948, when general manager Branch Rickey brought the team to the former naval air station barracks in Vero Beach to create the first integrated spring training facility in the South, the Robinson family consisted of Jackie, his wife, Rachel — whom Sharon describes as still “a force” at 97 — and 2-year old Jack Junior. Sharon would join the family in January 1950 and would welcome her younger brother, David, in 1952.