ATLANTA -- It was Jackie Robinson Day in ballparks across the country Wednesday, which meant it was a great day for new Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon.
Having spent his first four seasons in the big leagues with Robinson's old team, the 26-year-old Gordon gained a special appreciation for the man who broke baseball's color barrier in 1947. It's part of the reason Gordon has become more and more involved in MLB's push to revive baseball in black communities.
He's already met with players from the Marlins Reviving Baseball in the Innnercity's program, and hosted a free baseball camp in his hometown of Avon Park, Fla. last December.
"I try to help the kids were I’m from just to show them I’m from the same place and I made it to professional baseball and my dad did as well," said Gordon, whose father Tom was an All-Star relief pitcher and whose younger half-brother Nick, 19, was taken fifth overall in the 2014 draft by the Twins.
"More than anything I want to show kids you can do more than just the things you see in front of you."
Gordon, who was recruited by Louisville and other basketball powers as a standout 5-11 guard, chose to dedicate himself to baseball over hoops his senior year of high school. It's a decision he has not regretted -- and one baseball hopes plays out more often with other talented young black athletes.
According to a study by USA Today, there were 68 African-Americans on opening-day rosters last week (roughly 7.8 percent of the 868 players listed on rosters on disabled list). That's a far cry from 1986 when 19 percent of major leaguers were African American.
Yet, there are signs an influx of young African-Americans like Gordon's brother are entering the game. Nick is one of 18 African-Americans drafted in the first round since 2012. Seven African-Americans are ranked about the Top 100 prospects in the game by ESPN's Keith Law.
More -- including a few from Miami -- could be among the next wave.
"When I first got here we had the Ayudan week and I got to meet the Marlins [Junior Division] RBI kids who won the World Series," Gordon said. "It was amazing to see that talent these kids have coming from inner city Miami. I didn’t really get to see much of it in LA because they were in Compton and it was tough to get over there. In Miami, I got to see them first hand and that was amazing."
Gordon said he goes back to his high school in Avon Park often to be around the kids and talk about the game. "I got a lot of cousins who play baseball for my high school now," Gordon said. "It’s getting better."
> Marlins skipper Mike Redmond said he's hopeful left fielder Christian Yelich (back tightness) can return to the lineup Thursday against the Mets, but he's not going to push the Gold Glover back before he's ready.
> Marlins pitching prospect Jose Urena, expected to be sent back down to the minors when David Phelps comes off the paternity list Thursday, was happy he was able to make his big league debut and pitch a scoreless ninth inning in Tuesday's 8-2 win over the Braves.
"I felt good, got an inning in, looked good, wasn't nervous," Urena said. "It's been a wonderful experience. The majority of people who get called up go through this, come up for a short time. The important thing is to take a good experience back with you to the minors."