You can make the argument that there were at least a half-dozen other players Branch Rickey could have selected from the talent pool of players in the Negro leagues. Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige, to name a few.
Jackie Robinson was NOT picked as the player to break the color barrier just because of his athletic prowess. It was his temperance with anger and frustration.
He was calm, cool, and collected.
What was needed more than a 5-tool ballplayer was an even-keel that could sustain the discrimination and systemic racism throughout a 150+ game season.
I think what young ballplayers can learn from Jackie Robinson's career is clear. In a game loaded with failure, our ability to focus on the factors within our locus of control will dictate our daily performance.
We can develop a love for adversity, refine true grit, and transcend doubt by playing the game for the right reasons.
Whether it's struggling with inside fastballs, a funk at the plate, injury, a micro-managing coach, or discrimination because of the color of your skin, what will matter most is how you respond to the challenge.
Refuse to transfer blame. Take ownership of your craft.
Find meaning in what you do - because what you do, and more importantly, how you do it matters.
Let's all strive to pass the torch in our own way.
Happy Jackie Robinson Day!
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