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4/13/2014 7:40 P.M. ET

Jackie Robinson Day 'very special' for Nationals

MLB to honor first African American player with celebration on Tuesday

ATLANTA -- On Tuesday, the Nationals will take part in a league-wide celebration of Jackie Robinson Day by honoring the first African American player in Major League Baseball.

Robinson broke baseball's color barrier and brought the Negro Leagues' electrifying style of play to the big leagues in 1947. He quickly became one of the game's top draws, the most daring baserunner and a symbol of hope to millions of Americans. The Brooklyn Dodgers won six pennants in Robinson's 10 seasons, and he was named National League Most Valuable Player in 1949. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

"He means a ton to the game of baseball, because the barrier he broke was -- at the time -- a very tough one to break," Nationals outfielder Nate McLouth said. "There have been so many more good African American players that have followed in his footsteps and have added so much to the game. It's a great celebration that will obviously last forever."

Outfielder Denard Span doesn't know if he could have handled the pressures that Robinson handled in 1947, but he can't wait to wear Robinson's uniform No. 42 for a day.

"I know everything he had to go through was for a reason," Span said. "If he didn't go through it, I wouldn't have the opportunities that I have today. So for me, it's a very special day."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.