Boston Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training in just over two weeks.
But Friday, middle school students in Western Massachusetts learned a history lesson from the team.
On the eve of Black History month, the Red Sox shined the light on Jackie Robinson for the twelfth year in a row.
"You are being given a gift of a teaching opportunity in the dead of winter, before you're seeing the images of sunshine and palm trees from Florida," said Red Sox executive vice president Charles Steinber, who was one of several people in Western Mass on Friday.
He was part of the discussion of Jackie Robinson on what would have been the baseball player's 95th birthday.
This time around, the yearly celebration tour included the team's 2013 championship trophy.
Steinberg said the team's new ownership, which took over in 2002, wanted to make an impact on the African American community and the lives of students.
"When these children are 35 years old, they have children and it's Jan. 31, and the child says we're going to learn about Jackie Robinson, that parent whose child is now a middle schooler, will say, 'I know that story,'" said Steinberg.
It is a story that seventh-graders at Van Sickle Middle School got to know well this past week. They not only studied Robinson in class, they wrote an essay involving the player.
Students told CBS 3 that they learned different lessons from Robinson's story.
"I didn't know that he was called bad names as well," said Tommy Nguyen. "When he was playing baseball, he got hit in the head by pitchers and even his own teammate."
"It doesn't matter what you look like," said Kiara Lee Cruz. "It just matters what is on the inside."
Former Red Sox player and coach Tommy Harper also spoke to the students on Friday.
He shared his knowledge of how Robinson helped to change the game and the country.
"It's how you carry yourself," said Harper. "It's not physical violence that works, it's excellence that works. So, you're out there, not trying to prove something with force, but by your own excellence."
Students who won the essay contests were given copies of the movie 42 and tickets to Jackie Robinson Day at Fenway Park.
All of the students in attendance received a gift bag that included a Red Sox baseball hat.
After Friday morning's stop at Van Sickle, the group made their way to Holyoke for another presentation. The second event was held at Lt. Elmer McMahon Elementary School.
The final stop for the championship trophy was the CBS 3 Springfield studios.
Our staff got to spend time with the hardware, as CBS 3 is your exclusive Western Mass NESN affiliate.
Copyright 2014 WSHM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Thursday, July 31 2014 5:42 PM EDT2014-07-31 21:42:41 GMT
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