ATLANTA -- Jason Grilli returned to Turner Field on Wednesday night to be honored as the Braves' nominee for the 2015 Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet. At the same time, the veteran reliever took advantage of the chance to confirm his belief he will be ready to pitch again at the start of next year's Spring Training.
"That's my goal and that is my plan, barring no setbacks or jumping the gun too much," Grilli said. "I'm going to be 39 [years old] this offseason and some people might count me out or say I'm too old, but as long as there is opportunity, someone will find a spot for me. My history has proven that something like this won't set me back."
Grilli's return enabled him to reunite with some of his Braves teammates for the first time since he ruptured his left Achilles tendon while attempting to cover first base during a July 11 game at Coors Field. As he has spent the past few months recovering, he has seen Atlanta go from a team that entered July 8 with a .500 record to one that could now finish the season with Major League Baseball's worst record.
Some of the early season success was influenced by Grilli, who converted 24 of 26 save opportunities and posted a 2.96 ERA in 36 appearances.
"It's never fun, especially given where we were at when I left this team, and for me personally; I was having a good season," Grilli said. "You put in all that hard work and hope to contribute and be a factor in having a winning season and getting to the playoffs. That all gets erased after one play."
Though Grilli has not been able to help the Braves on the field over the past two months, his community efforts played a significant role in him being named Atlanta's nominee for the Clemente Award. Named after Hall of Fame right fielder and renowned philanthropist Roberto Clemente, the award recognizes players who best represent the game through positive contributions both on and off the field, where sportsmanship and community involvement rank paramount.
Fans are encouraged to participate in the process of selecting the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award on MLB.com. Voting ends Oct. 9, and 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 will be announced.
During Wednesday's pregame ceremony, a $7,500 check was presented to Feeding America, a charity that Grilli has become very involved with in attempt to fight against hunger. Along with volunteering at food banks across the country, the veteran reliever is also one of the Major Leaguers committed to the 108 stitches campaign, its mission to "Strike Out Cancer."
"Everybody wants to be a great ballplayer, but to be a better person, who better to exemplify and lead the way than Roberto Clemente?" Grilli said. "Something that is near and dear to my heart is feeding families and children that can't afford to, no matter what their circumstances might be. To see that instant gratification is something I don't do for any recognition, just for the sake of using this platform as Roberto did."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.