Figgins has deep appreciation for Jackie Robinson
Leadoff hitter often seeks out older ex major-leaguers to understand what they went through.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Chone Figgins tries never to forget the meaning behind Jackie Robinson Day and how on-field struggles by today's players pale in the greater context of things.
"It means a lot," Figgins said Sunday, as the Mariners and all major-leaguers prepared to take the field wearing Robinson's No. 42 to commemorate the 65th anniversary of his breaking baseball's color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
"Being from Georgia, my mom and dad actually went through segregation. So, they taught us a lot about values and what they went through. I didn't realize until an older age that they had black and white bathrooms.
"I didn't know that. I thought it was more my grandparents, but no, my parents went through that."
Figgins said he's made it a point over the years to seek out Dusty Baker, Cito Gaston and other former major-leaguers to gain insight into what they went through coming up as minor-leaguers in the racially-charged 1960s. In doing so, he's come to appreciate just how easy today's generation of players has it.
"And just for Jackie to be able to go through that and play baseball ... going through things where him and his wife went on road trips and had to sleep in different hotels, it's like a red carpet for us," Figgins said. "As different generations move on, it's become a lot easier."
Mariners catcher Miguel Olivo said he first heard of Robinson as a youth playing baseball in the Dominican Republic. But Olivo said he didn't fully appreciate what Robinson meant to players of all minorities until he began playing in the U.S. in the mid-1990s.
"Right now, I have so many friends playing here in America," Olivo said. "And that's because he opened the door to players from all the Latin countries.
Olivo said the younger generation of players needs to appreciate what Robinson did for them. He said his 10-year-old son saw some footage of Robinson on TV.
"I told him 'That's why I'm here,' " Olivo said. "That's why a lot of us are here playing baseball now in the United States."
• Mariners manager Eric Wedge liked what he saw from Brendan Ryan on Saturday night and hopes it's the start of his getting back on track. Ryan went from first to third on a Figgins single to help ignite a three-run Seattle sixth inning that put the game away.
"That's the game he has to play," Wedge said. "That's one of the things that makes him a big league starter. The way he plays defensively, runs the bases, the energy he brings to the ballclub. And he has to bring it every day."
Ryan followed that up on Sunday with his first home run of the season and first ever at Safeco Field. Asked whether he was looking forward to the team's day off in Seattle on Monday, Ryan appeared stunned and said he didn't realize Seattle wasn't playing.
"I didn't know that," he told the throng of reporters around his locker. "Are you serious?"
Told they were, he added: "Good, I'll get some furniture and stuff. I've got to get some stuff for the condo."
• The home run by Ryan in the second inning and Justin Smoak in the third gave Seattle its first multi-homer game of the season.
• Jesus Montero had his hitting streak snapped at eight games by going 0 for 4.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @gbakermariners.