Honor recognizes players for positive contributions on and off the field
By Mark Newman
Major League Baseball and Chevrolet on Monday announced the names of the 30 club nominees for the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet. Fan voting is now underway -- it began on Roberto Clemente Day -- to help decide who succeeds Jimmy Rollins and Paul Konerko as overall winner of the prestigious community honor handed out annually at the World Series.
The award recognizes a player who best represents the game through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement. Each club nominates one player in an effort to pay tribute to Clemente's achievements and character by recognizing current players who truly understand the value of helping others.
Wednesday marks the 14th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by MLB to honor Clemente's legacy and to officially acknowledge local club nominees of the award in his honor. The 12-time All-Star and Pirates Hall of Famer died in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972, while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
"This award represents everything Roberto stood for as a 'good Samaritan,'" said MLB Goodwill Ambassador Vera Clemente, Roberto's wife. "Through the Roberto Clemente Award, today's players are recognized for these same qualities."
Clubs playing at home on Wednesday will recognize their local nominees as part of Roberto Clemente Day ceremonies, while visiting clubs will honor their nominees before another September home game. As part of the league-wide celebration, the Roberto Clemente Day logo will appear on the bases and official dugout lineup cards, and a special tribute video will be played in ballparks.
MLB and the Pirates will introduce an element to the celebration of Clemente's legacy this year with "SEAT 21." On Roberto Clemente Day, a seat at PNC Park will be dedicated to a local community agent of change who will be recognized alongside the Pirates' Roberto Clemente Award nominee (McCutchen).
Beginning on Roberto Clemente Day and concluding on Oct. 9, fans are encouraged to participate in the process of selecting the league-wide recipient by visiting ChevyBaseball.com, which is powered by MLB Advanced Media, to vote for one of the nominees. Participating fans will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to the 2015 World Series, during which the national winner of the award will be announced.
Willie Mays won the first of these honors in 1971 when it was known as the Commissioner's Award, to recognize players for their philanthropic work. With this summer's induction of John Smoltz (2005) and Craig Biggio ('07), there are now 16 members of the Hall of Fame who are past recipients. After 1972, the award was dedicated in Clemente's name.
There are 12 All-Stars among the nominees: Archer, Bautista, Goldschmidt, Gonzalez, both Gordons, Holt, McCutchen, Rizzo, Santiago, Teixeira and Vogt. Last year marked the first time that the award was given to two players.
"You understand the prestige that comes with the award," Rollins said, "and not for any other reason but to say, 'Wow, I did something important in the game that had nothing to do with baseball, but everything to do with helping others.'"
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.