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4/15/2014 10:00 A.M. ET

Robinson's bravery inspiring to all generations

They say the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the number on the back.

It's a good theory, one that is true 364 days of the year.

But each and every April 15 in Major League Baseball, that statement reverses.

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Jackie Robinson Day is something that transcends the 30 teams of big league baseball. Because in truth, when every player and coach dons No. 42 today, they're not just playing for the Rays or the Jays, the White Sox or Red Sox, the Redbirds in St. Louis or the orange ones in Baltimore.

No, from coast to coast, they're playing as one team: Team Humanity.

So it doesn't matter who wins or loses today in the big picture. What does matter is how a legacy is represented, both on the field and off it.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson holds a very special place in my heart.

You may wonder what a four-sport letterman at UCLA has to do with a 17-year-old Cincinnatian who has not an athletic bone in her body and who was born 40 years after he retired from playing the sport he loved.

It's a fair question, with a quick answer:


Plain and simple.

Baseball is the tie that binds, across racial and ethnic and every other kind of line.

Jackie Robinson was a heck of a lot braver than I am. He changed the face of baseball today, as well as impacting countless individual lives.

I'm proud to say that one of those lives is mine.

Jackie's crossing of the color line 67 years ago gave those of all colors the ability to step under the lights of a Major League ballpark and play the game they loved for a living.

I'm no athlete, but without Jackie, I wouldn't be half the person I am today, and I most definitely wouldn't be lucky enough to live my own dream.

Ever since I've been infatuated with baseball, I've also been infatuated with the Jackie Robinson story. I read biographies, collected baseball cards, played in my local league for kids with disabilities -- anything to feel closer to this man who so humbly went about the business of changing the world.

That's another thing Jackie and I happen to have in common: a desire to change the world we live in.

While I know I will never impact lives around me with the magnitude Jackie did, every day I try to live out the nine values he deemed so dear to a successful life, the same nine values that were the subject of my Grand Prize-winning entry in 2011's Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life essay contest.

Courage. Teamwork. Determination. Persistence. Integrity. Citizenship. Justice. Commitment. Excellence.

They're nine values we could all use a daily reminder of. And a dose of reality never hurts, either.

So today, remember this: "A life is not important, except in the impact it has on other lives."

And just for today, when you watch your favorite team take the field, try not to focus on the name on the front of the jersey.

After all, the number on the back holds a bit more significance.

Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.