"I'm excited to put that number on," said Semien of the celebration marking the 67th anniversary of Robinson's debut and his breaking of Major League Baseball's color barrier. "It's a special day."
Semien was joined by teammate Donnie Veal, hitting coach Todd Steverson, assistant hitting coach Harold Baines and first-base coach Daryl Boston Tuesday morning at the U.S. Cellular Field Conference and Learning Center for a program focused on Robinson's impact on sports and society. Minnie Minoso, the first black player in White Sox franchise history, and Illinois governor Pat Quinn also were in attendance, as were students from local Chicago high schools Kenwood Academy, King College Prep, Leo High School, Seton Academy and Simeon Career Academy.
Dr. Carol Adams, CEO of DuSable Museum of African American History, joined White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and executive vice president Ken Williams on the panel. Veal was impressed by the first-hand knowledge presented about Robinson by Reinsdorf, who was a die-hard fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers growing up and was actually at Robinson's first game in 1947 as part of the traditional home-and-home series to end spring between the Dodgers and Yankees.
All the students in attendance took home a copy of the movie 42.
Prior to Tuesday's contest with the Red Sox, a video tribute to Robinson was played on the center field scoreboard. Members of the White Sox Amateur City Elite baseball program were recognized and Liz Dozier, the principal of Fenger Academy in Chicago, threw out the first pitch to Chris Sale.
"It's important, I think not just baseball, but in life," said manager Robin Ventura of Jackie Robinson Day. "It changed a lot of things in America that baseball should be proud of."
"With all the interviews and specials reflecting on Jackie, people see what he went through even for just a day," Veal said. "Take a second and stop and think about how far we've come and how far we still have to go. It's awesome that the whole league wears [No. 42] and the whole country watching games, everyone gets a chance to reflect, not just the African-American community."
Diversity in the White Sox clubhouse speaks to the social change brought about by Robinson's courage.
"Yeah, there's enough of it -- even looking throughout the league, it's always been there from when I played," Ventura said. "But you start looking what's in that clubhouse, you look around the league, not only African-American kids but people from all over the world are in clubhouses. The diversity is something, he brought it on."
"To me, it's an honor to be able to wear that number on my back, to be able to wear 42 on my back, in honor of someone that opened the doors and made so many things possible for African-Americans," said shortstop Alexei Ramirez through translator and White Sox director of public relations Lou Hernandez. "And me as a Cuban, to be able to come here, he opened doors for me as well."