Clemente always on Tabata's mind

Clemente always on Tabata's mind

PITTSBURGH -- Veteran Major Leaguer Jose Tabata spent much of this summer in Indianapolis, healing both physically and mentally, and has no trouble identifying his biggest regret about his two months in the Minor League doghouse.

On Aug. 18, in honor of what would have been Roberto Clemente's 80th birthday, the Pirates had "21" mowed into PNC Park's right field. Tabata's field.

But the acknowledged biggest Clemente idolizer among the current Buccos was still in Triple-A, and he missed the opportunity to play on the hallowed lawn, on a day that would have been more meaningful than usual.

"Everyone here knows how I've always felt about Clemente," Tabata said Wednesday, amid the MLB-wide observance of the 13th annual Roberto Clemente Day. "He was so special playing in this city. I think about him every day, not just on his day."

As a team, the Pirates honored The Great One by visiting Banksville Elementary School, bearing gifts -- which some fans considered curious, in the middle of a pennant race.

"I'll get a handful of notes, 'These guys need to rest. What are you doing out today?' I'll get them every year," said manager Clint Hurdle. "No you don't [need to rest]. You need to go out, you need to support the community, you need to honor Roberto and the Clemente family. It's what Pirates do, this is who we are, this is how we roll and this is how we'll continue to roll -- because it's not just about the game."

"It will be an even more special day if we win," Tabata said. "That is the best way to celebrate Clemente Day."

Entering Wednesday night's game against Boston, the Bucs had a 7-3 record on Clemente Days, twice having had an off-day on Sept. 17.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.