Lauber: Red Sox have the star power to keep Jackie Robinson’s legacy alive

From Scott Lauber at on April 14, 2017, with mention of SABR member Mark Armour:

The way Chris Young always told it, he decided in high school to focus on the sport he played best. It was as simple as that. Looking back now, though, the Boston Red Sox outfielder says another factor pulled him toward baseball while all his friends were busy with football and basketball.

“Griffey,” Young says. “He was who I looked up to. He was the guy I tried to emulate, even as a right-handed hitter. I had his cleats. I had his tennis shoes. To me, he was just super cool — and he was a baseball player.”

In the 1990s, the desire to be like Ken Griffey Jr. — a transcendent athlete with a youthful enthusiasm that came through in his backward-cap style and gigawatt smile — was powerful enough to compel a black teenager from southwest Houston to attend a high school known for its powerhouse baseball program rather than go to the school nearest his neighborhood. That was the choice Young made when he enrolled at Bellaire High in 1997, and it served as a springboard to a professional baseball career that has lasted for 16 years, the past 12 in the big leagues.

These days, when Young gazes around the Red Sox clubhouse, he is sure there are impressionable African-American children in Boston who will be similarly influenced by watching and mimicking right fielder Mookie Betts, the runner-up as American League MVP last season and one of Major League Baseball’s fresh faces.

But even with Saturday marking the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson becoming the first black player in the majors, Young’s optimism feels more like wishful thinking.

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Originally published: April 14, 2017. Last Updated: April 14, 2017.