PITTSBURGH -- As great an on-field impact as Adam Wainwright has made during his 11 seasons with the Cardinals, the work that he has done to improve communities around the world is what he hopes will be most lasting in his legacy.
In recognition of that charity work, which includes his Big League Impact mission, Wainwright has been selected as the Cardinals' 2016 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.
Major League Baseball announced the 30 club nominees on Tuesday for the annual recognition of a player who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field. Each club nominates one player to be considered for the Roberto Clemente Award in tribute to Clemente's achievements and character by recognizing current players who truly understand the value of helping others.
Fans are encouraged to participate in the new process of selecting the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award by posting any nominee's voting hashtags to MLB's official social media accounts, @MLB on Twitter and Facebook.com/MLB. Wainwright's hashtag is #VoteWainwright.
Since forming his charitable foundation, Big League Impact, in 2013, Wainwright has raised more than $1 million to help provide basic needs for people in Major League cities and internationally. He's raised much of that money through a fantasy football initiative that has spread beyond St. Louis and into seven other big league cities this season.
By hosting fantasy football leagues where fans can compete against Major League players and other celebrities, Wainwright has been able to build clean water systems in developing countries, feed hungry kids around the world, cure blindness in an African community and aid in the escape of girls stuck in sex trafficking rings.
In addition to his charitable donations, Wainwright has taken trips to East Africa, Mexico, Haiti and Honduras to offer in-person help.
"I just hope people realize the type of impact that he has," said Michael Hall, the executive director of Cardinals Care. "Adam has been great to us, not only for the foundation but to the organization as well. He's very, very gracious with his time."
Locally, Wainwright hosts groups of children at Busch Stadium six times a year through his "Wainwright's Winners" program. Those children receive tickets, concession money and have a chance to ask questions of Wainwright. He also assists Operation Food Search, a St. Louis nonprofit organization that provides meals to the hungry.
"The fact that he uses his platform to do so much good for so many people just makes him a very endearing person," said Sunny Schaefer, executive director of Operation Food Search, at last month's fantasy football draft. "Whenever you mention hungry kids and feeding them, he just brightens up. He wants to help and make a difference in their lives and is obviously concerned with the welfare of people in our community and all around the world."
Fittingly, the Cardinals will be in Pittsburgh on Wednesday when MLB celebrates its 15th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by MLB to honor Clemente's legacy and to officially acknowledge local club nominees of the Roberto Clemente Award. Clubs playing at home on Wednesday will recognize their local nominees as part of Roberto Clemente Day ceremonies. Visiting clubs will honor their nominees before another September home game.
As part of the MLB-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.
The original "Commissioner's Award" for philanthropic service was renamed in 1973 in honor of Clemente, 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.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.