ATLANTA -- Brandon Phillips hit his first home run since joining the Atlanta Braves. It came on Jackie Robinson Day, a day honoring the late second baseman who broke the sport's color barrier 70 years ago.
Every player wears No. 42, Robinson's number which is retired in the league, on this day.
Phillips, who is a Stone Mountain, Georgia native, knew the magnitude of the moment as the ball sailed out of SunTrust Park on Saturday.
"Anytime you have number 42 on your back, you want to go out there and show out there and go get a W. But everybody had number 42 on their back. Everybody was representing Jackie Robinson," he said.
"He just changed the whole world for me to go out there and play this game, all you can really do is thank Jackie Robinson for everything he did for me and everybody."
Phillips hit the solo shot in the bottom of the sixth off Clayton Richard to take the lead. On the next at bat, third baseman Adonis Garcia hit one out of the newly established hitter's park and eventually lead the Braves to a 4-2 win over the San Diego Padres.
"I saw a ball that I liked," Phillips said. "I said, 'You know what, I'm going to try and hit this ball as far as I can.' "
11Alive partner USA TODAY Sports recently did a report on the declining percentage of African Americans who are in the majors. The sport is seeing the lowest percentage of them since 1958 at just over 7 percent. Phillips said it's sad, but he understands why it's happening.
"Coming from Stone Mountain, I didn't like baseball. I grew up playing football and basketball, and baseball was like my last favorite sport. Baseball is boring. I'm not going to lie to you. That's why I play the way I play. Just seeing not that many African Americans playing baseball, it's sad. But the thing is I can understand why a lot of people don't. It's not exciting, baseball is very expensive. Bats cost $400, and not everyone has $400."
Phillips said his dad, James, worked hard and "came through" to provide Phillips with what he needed to pursue the sport.
"Everybody's not fortunate," Phillips said. "You can't make people play."
Phillips said he hopes he and others like Matt Kemp inspire other African Americans to get into the sport, just like one legend did for him.
"Barry Larkin changed my life. He made me want to concentrate on baseball."
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