Throughout the season, the Nationals take several opportunities to recognize the achievements of African Americans in the game of baseball. While Jackie Robinson Day is one of those important celebrations, the Nationals will also recognize the accomplishments of other important African American legends like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Andre Dawson and Ken Griffey, Jr. during “Black Heritage Night.”
On Friday evening, several influential African-Americans will participate in a pre-game ceremony including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes and former Negro League player Mamie “Peanut” Johnson.
Throughout the game, Willie Harris and his teammates will pay tribute to African-Americans who have left their mark on the national pastime. Harris was thrilled to join the Nationals in 2008 in part because of the city’s rich Black history and culture.
“If it wasn’t for the African-Americans before myself -- Jackie Robinson and all those guys, I wouldn’t be standing here,” said Willie Harris.
“I’m very fortunate and very grateful for everything that they’ve done for the game of baseball and for me personally. They paved the way and I’m able to have a pretty good living because of those guys. Sometimes people forget, but those guys are the reason I’m here now and I’m grateful.”
Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo will also present the inaugural Joe Black Award, honoring the Washington Senators pitcher.
This year’s award will be given to the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission’s (M-NCPPC) Department of Parks & Recreation Prince George’s County, an organization that teaches children the game of baseball through youth clinics and specialized instruction.
Steven Michael Selzer, author of Meet The Real Joe Black: An Inspiring Life. Baseball, Teaching, Business Giving, will also sign copies of his book on the Main Concourse behind Home Plate through the 3rd inning.
Appropriately, it’s also Nyjer Morgan’s birthday so make sure to make some noise for Tony Plush tonight.