Each Club nominates one current player to be considered for the Roberto Clemente Award in tribute to Clemente's achievements and character. Wednesday, September 7 marks the fifteenth annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by Major League Baseball to honor Clemente's legacy and to officially acknowledge local Club nominees of the Roberto Clemente Award. 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.
One of 30 Club finalists for the annual award, Archer began using his platform to reach disadvantaged youth in the Tampa Bay area when he broke into the major leagues with the Rays in 2013. While he has both fundraised and donated significant dollars to charities in Tampa and his home city of Clayton, North Carolina, Chris' primary commitment to his community has been his generous donation of time.
Chris has made meaningful, lasting connections with kids including repeated visits to Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg; the Pinellas County Juvenile Detention Center; RBI Leagues in numerous cities; Good Sports, Inc., a nonprofit that helps provide athletic equipment to disadvantaged youth; the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism school in St. Petersburg that helps minority middle school boys improve academic performance and gain life skills; Burg Baseball, Inc., a St. Petersburg-based program designed to give financially disadvantaged youngsters a chance to play ball; and local recreation centers and after-school programs where he reads with young children as part of the "Reading with the Rays" program.
He has assisted the Heart Gallery, an agency dedicated to finding children in foster care a permanent home. In 2016, Chris directly assisted in finding Zachary, a local 15-year-old in the Tampa Bay area, a forever home. Both Zachary and his new parents say the adoption wouldn't have happened without Chris.
In 2015, Chris contacted officials from Major League Baseball to schedule visits with RBI Leagues across North America. Since then he has visited with RBI kids from Arlington, Bradenton, Cleveland, Detroit, New York, Oakland, Philadelphia, Tampa and Toronto. In August, during the Rays three-game series in Toronto, the Blue Jays invited Chris to serve as keynote speaker at their International Youth Day workshop for youth instructors, coaches and guidance counselors of the Rookie League program, which is made up of youngsters from Toronto Community Housing.
In 2013, he established the Archway Foundation in an effort to teach youth that the legacy they leave behind should not be one of fortune and fame, but rather a legacy of generosity, integrity and passion. Archway sponsors two youth baseball teams whose players must participate in all team activities, including required readings and community service projects. Archway also donates to Raleigh-area nonprofits and provides food and gifts to local families in need.
During the 2016 season, he has hosted two major fundraising events that benefitted his Archway Foundation and the Rays Baseball Foundation. He also hosted the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay's Chris Archer Bowl for Kids' Sake in 2015, which raised nearly $50,000. His club-record 252 strikeouts last season raised $18,900 to be split between Burg Baseball, Inc. and Tampa RBI and his 200-plus strikeouts this year will raise a similar amount this year for those charities.
Internationally, Archer eagerly participated in MLB's Ambassador Program which allowed him to travel to South Africa and Taiwan the past two years and build awareness of the game to youngsters in different countries. He also visited Curaçao along with several other major leaguers to help with clinics and spread his love for kids and baseball.
"Chris is one of the brightest and most thoughtful people I have had the pleasure of meeting," said Rays President Brian Auld. "He genuinely strives to make the world a better place, both through large scale, impactful programs and, just as importantly, through his personal touch. We couldn't be more proud of how he represents our organization."
"I feel the reason we are on this earth is to be a positive influence," said Archer, "and to positively impact as many lives as we can. I try to use baseball and my success in my industry as a platform to do that. And hopefully, one day I can reach millions."
Beginning on Roberto Clemente Day, fans can participate in the process of selecting the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award on social media for the first time by posting voting hashtags to Twitter and Facebook. Rays fans can vote for Archer by using #VoteArcher.
To enhance Roberto Clemente Day and celebrate Clemente's enduring legacy in 2016, Major League Baseball worked with the 30 Clubs to establish SEAT 21. SEAT 21 will be a designated seat in each ballpark on Roberto Clemente Day (or alternate home game for Clubs on the road) dedicated to a well-known or local hero originally from the community who will be recognized in addition to the Club Clemente Award nominee. Recognizing individuals who embody the humanitarian spirit of Roberto Clemente is a natural extension of the current honor bestowed upon players each year and gives MLB and the Clubs the opportunity to further extend the message of service and commitment.
The Tampa Bay Rays Seat 21 honoree is Victor Y. Fernandez. Victor has spent the last 35 years in the Hillsborough County School District dedicating his life to help immigrants to this country through education by accommodating them into their new country and new culture. He has further served the community by serving as a Bilingual Court Interpreter for the Judicial Court System of Hillsborough County and worked as an Assistant Principal and Principal at high risk schools in the Tampa Bay Area.
The concept of honoring Major League players for their philanthropic work was created in 1971 as the "Commissioner's Award," but was renamed to 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.