"It's truly an honor to be in this category with Mr. Roberto Clemente and everything that he's done not only for the sport of baseball, but in the community," Howard said in a statement. "For me it's always been about giving back, and helping children to have an opportunity to succeed in life."
Howard's community work includes The Ryan Howard Big Piece Foundation. The foundation promotes academic and athletic development.
"I want children to believe in themselves," Howard said. "I want to help them dream big. Kids need to realize and believe that they can grow up to become whoever they want to be. It's about becoming the best version of yourself and sometimes all you need is just that one break or that one opportunity to make dreams become a reality. I want to help provide those opportunities for kids."
Howard's community initiatives include The Ryan Howard Reading Challenge, which has become the Foundation's signature program. It is a K-3 literacy-based program that engages students to read at least 20 minutes a day, seven days a week. The foundation also has awarded local Vare-Washington Elementary School with a $75,000 academic grant that provided a much-needed library for students. The development of inner-city youth baseball is also a passionate cause of Howard, who has committed to being involved with the new Phillies MLB Urban Youth Academy.
Beginning on Roberto Clemente Day, fans are encouraged to participate in the process of selecting the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet by visiting ChevyBaseball.com, which is powered by MLB Advanced Media, to vote for one of the 30 club nominees. Voting ends on Friday, Oct. 9; participating fans will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to the 2015 World Series, where the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet will be announced. Clubs playing at home on Wednesday will recognize their nominee as part of Roberto Clemente Day ceremonies, while visiting clubs will honor their nominee 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 tribute video will be played in ballparks.
The concept of honoring players for their philanthropic work came about in 1971 as the Commissioner's Award, which was renamed the Roberto Clemente Award in 1973 in honor of the Hall of Famer and 15-time All-Star, who died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Each September since 2002, Major League Baseball has commemorated Roberto Clemente Day.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.