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Big Papi named 2011 Clemente Award winner

Big Papi named 2011 Clemente Award winner

Big Papi named 2011 Clemente Award winner
ST. LOUIS -- After David Ortiz received the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet on the field Thursday before Game 2 of the World Series, 2008 winner Albert Pujols of the Cardinals raced from first base, where he was stretching, to hug his Dominican countryman at home plate.

The congratulatory embrace was an especially poignant scene at Busch Stadium, because Ortiz expected Pujols to be a two-time winner when the 30 nominees were announced last month.

"I wasn't expecting this. When I first heard about this, I was like, 'Me? Really?' I tell a few people I was watching a video of one of my really good friends, Albert Pujols, and what he does for his foundation. At the beginning of the season, I saw it on the Internet, and I called him right after I watched it. That was at the beginning of the season, and he was going through some tough times.

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"We were talking for a while, and at the end of the conversation, I told him, 'Man, I don't care if you hit .100 this year, to me, you are a great human being. Because everything you do for people, I'm glad you are keeping up with that, then keeping up with what we do on the field.'

"So on my way here, I was looking at the list that [they] showed me, and then I saw my boy Pujols and I was in the lead, and I said, 'Did I beat Pujols?'"

Yes, indeed. Ortiz has seven All-Star appearances, two World Series championships, 378 home runs and now Major League Baseball's ultimate recognition of community service.

The Clemente Award recognizes the player who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions, on and off the field. The annual award, named for the 12-time All-Star and Hall of Famer who died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua, pays tribute to Clemente's achievements and character by recognizing current players who truly understand the value of helping others.

"Major League Baseball is pleased to present David Ortiz with the 2011 Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "David's remarkable commitment to helping children receive essential pediatric care in the United States and the Dominican Republic makes him a wonderful choice for this honor. The legacy of the great Roberto Clemente lives on through the selfless actions of players like David and so many of his peers."

"I am incredibly honored to be the recipient of this year's award," Ortiz said. "It's humbling to be associated with all the tremendous names that have won this award in the past, and I look forward to continuing to do my part to maintain Roberto Clemente's legacy."

More than a million fans participated at chevybaseball.com/clemente to help decide this year's recipient. The fan poll winner received one vote among those cast by the selection panel, which included Selig and Vera Clemente; MLB.com columnist Hal Bodley; TBS personalities and former Clemente Award winners Cal Ripken Jr. and John Smoltz; MLB Network analysts and former Clemente Award winners Al Leiter and Harold Reynolds; ESPN analyst and former Clemente Award winner Barry Larkin; and ESPN analyst and former All-Star Nomar Garciaparra.

In 2005, after visiting young children who had just received lifesaving heart operations in his native Santo Domingo, Ortiz founded the David Ortiz Children's Fund. Dedicated to raising funds to help provide children access to critical pediatric care in the Dominican and U.S., the DOCF formed an official partnership with the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in 2009 to continue and extend its lifesaving mission in New England.

In 2010, the DOCF raised more than $1.5 million, providing funding for more than 200 lifesaving heart operations and helping numerous children in New England receive the care they needed. Ortiz personally donated $100,000 to the DOCF in 2011.

Additionally, Ortiz annually donates his time and resources to benefit Mass General and other organizations, programs and causes. As part of his "Papi's Pals" initiative, Ortiz purchased blocks of tickets at Red Sox games to donate to MGH patients. He has participated in holiday and direct mail programs to benefit MGH patients, as well as additional Red Sox and Boston-related charitable causes. In January 2010, Ortiz donated food and medical supplies to support those affected by the earthquake that struck Haiti, and encouraged fans to help in the relief effort.

"David Ortiz is a great choice among an outstanding group of candidates for the 2011 Roberto Clemente Award," Vera Clemente said. "He has been a deserving candidate for many years, and I am very happy to see him win. The hands-on work he has done over the years and the money he has donated in Boston, Haiti and the Dominican Republic is a wonderful example for all players, and I know Roberto would have been very proud of his selection."

The third nomination was the charm for the Red Sox's designated hitter, who follows 2010 winner Tim Wakefield -- the first club repeat since Jamie Moyer and Edgar Martinez won for Seattle in 2003 and '04, respectively.

Phil Caruso, the national promotions manager for Chevrolet, said he is "humbled" to have the honor of sitting at the dais each year for this event, alongside a high-impact player, Selig and Mrs. Clemente. Caruso said that during Chevrolet's partnership with MLB for this award, the company has contributed more than $1.5 million to charitable organizations across the country. Chevrolet also is contributing a new car to Ortiz's charity of choice, plus another donation to the Roberto Clemente Sports Center in Puerto Rico.

"Over the past five years," Caruso said, "I hope we have helped amplify the importance of this award and helped in carrying on the legacy of Roberto Clemente."

Leiter served as emcee of the award's presentation for the first time, and at the end he invited a couple of questions from the crowd. Knowing the recent turmoil around Boston, Leiter added: "... but please keep the questions to the Roberto Clemente Award. Especially for David."

Big Papi proceeded to playfully put his big sunglasses back on as if to shield himself.

Then he was told that he was the second straight Red Sox player to win the award and was asked if he had talked to Wakefield about what he had done with his charity involvement.

"Actually, no," Ortiz said. "What I do, I never [seek] attention to be recognized, because I guess when we do things off the field, you're focusing on making sure the help you are bringing to the people that needs it, you do as much as you can to help.

"We have a huge list of kids who are waiting to get their heart surgery. I get into situations sometimes where we are collecting the money that we raise for them, I get caught [up] talking with people who work for me, about how can we raise more money to get their heart the right way. I never think about being honored.

"This is not something I ever think of, but when you see Commissioner Selig and the Clemente family approach me with a beautiful trophy like this for the things that we do, it's something where you try to do even better so you can help more people out."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Reporter Ian Browne also contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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