MILWAUKEE -- Every April 15th, Major League Baseball remembers Jackie Robinson. All players on either team wear an unnamed jersey with the number "42," remembering the man who transformed the game. Robinson's number is retired by 29 of 30 teams in the Major Leagues. When New York Yankees' pitcher Mariano Rivera (the only active player to wear the number as he was wearing the number when MLB retired the number league wide) retires, the only time the number 42 will be worn on a Major League field will be to commemorate the great Robinson.
That night is special for Rickie Weeks and other African-American players, as Robinson's courage is still strongly felt today by African-American youth baseball players and Major League professionals. Weeks doesn't specifically know the number of times he's had the honor of having the number 42 on his jersey, but he told MLB.com reporter Adam McCalvy earlier this season that every time he does, "It's very special. I think people take for granted what Jackie Robinson did. I don't. It was in our house, always."
Saturday was another special night for Weeks, as the Milwaukee Brewers held their 7th annual Negro Leagues Tribute against the Washington Nationals. The Brewers wore reproductions worn by the 1923 Milwaukee Bears, Milwaukee's representative in the Negro National League. The Nationals wore uniforms originally worn by the Homestead Grays, members of the Negro Leagues from 1912-1950.
For Weeks, it's another humbling opportunity to remember where he comes from, and how blessed he is.
"It's great," said Weeks. "Being an African-American, they paved the way for me to play this game and to play at the highest level to play baseball. Obviously this day was more special."
Weeks has a strong personal tie to the Negro Leagues, as his grandfather, Victor, played for the Newark Eagles briefly in the late 1940s. His brother, Jemile, currently plays for the Oakland Athletics, making the Weeks' family proud of where they came from and what they represent today.
"We're a proud family. Not just me playing, but my brother playing. Just the fact that we know what kind of family we came from, the hard work that we put in, it's all special."
Weeks, along with former teammate Bill Hall, visited the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City in 2007. When the Brewers played the Royals earlier this season in Interleague Play, Weeks was able to make it to the Museum again. He says this time was more memorable.
"The first time, it's a whirlwind, trying to take everything in. You have to go twice, I think. The second time around, I was able to take more in and learn a bit more. I thought I knew everything, but I guess too much. It was good to go for the second time, definitely."
Weeks, a 2011 All-Star second baseman, has not put up the offensive numbers he had hoped for heading into the season. In May and June, Weeks batted .181 (33-for-182). As the weather is getting hotter in the dog days of summer, so is Weeks' bat. Thus far in July, Weeks is batting .293 (24-for-82), and he has hit more home runs (4) in July than he did in May and June. His RBI total (13) is more than the total he tallied in April and May combined. Weeks had another good night at the plate on Saturday, going 2-for-3 with an RBI single and a double. He has nine hits in his last 14 at-bats (.643), and is staying positive. Saturday's game he'll remember not only for the history it provides, but another good night at the plate.
"I'm a positive guy, I don't like to look past two hours ago. For me, I just go out there and work hard, and take the game for what it is."
Adam DeCock is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.