Capitals forward Joel Ward, who wears No. 42 in tribute to Jackie Robinson, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch in honor of Jackie Robinson Day before tonight’s Nationals-Cardinals game at Nationals Park. The league-wide celebration of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier in 1947 was Tuesday, but the Nationals were in Miami for the occasion.
As Dan wrote about last year, Ward didn’t always care about his jersey number. He wore No. 27 with the Minnesota Wild and No. 29 with the Nashville Predators before signing with Washington as a free agent in 2011. While Ward was playing in Nashville, a Predators blogger — Brandon Felder of HockeyBuzz.com — gave him a copy of a Jackie Robinson biography. Ward wasn’t a baseball fan, but he read the book, and it became his inspiration for changing his number.
“And right away, I was just intrigued about the whole story,” Ward told Dan. “When I came to D.C., I got a chance to kind of change my number and pick a different number, and I definitely wanted to pay tribute. I thought it was a new chapter for me, and I wanted to pay tribute to a man that kind of paved the way for guys like me. And no better number than 42.”
Ward will look to uphold the Capitals’ recent success in avoiding complete embarrassment on ceremonial first pitches.