Roberto Clemente was a great ballplayer but also was well known for his charity work off the field. As a result, every year MLB awards the “Roberto Clemente” award to the one player who gives back to the community through whatever charitable endeavors they are the most passionate about. One player is nominated from each team and then fans vote on the winner.
The 2014 slate of candidates is out, and this year’s choices have a certain Virginia feel to them. It includes three Virginia-natives and one players who played in Virginia on their way to the majors.
From the Detroit Tigers, P Justin Verlander (Goochland/ODU) does various endeavors that help veterans in the Detroit area, including helping with renovations at a rehab facility, providing funding for mental health for veterans, and hosting veterans in his suite at Comerica Park on his game nights.
From the Colorado Rockies, OF Michael Cuddyer (Chesapeake) may have had a lost 2014 season, with numerous injuries and multiple stints on the DL, but he did not let that get him down and still gave back to the Denver community. He has been a huge part of the Rockies startup program to help eradicate violence in schools by encouraging high school students to perform random acts of kindness in the community. He also makes appearances in the schools on behalf of the Rockies and this program. He also provides a suite at Coors field to allow disadvantaged youth to see a MLB game live.
From the New York Mets, 3B David Wright (Chesapeake) may be playing the hot corner in the big city of New York, but he has never forgotten his Virginia roots. He started an initiative to help the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, based in Norfolk and the only free-standing children’s hospital in Virginia, provide for the development of needy children, and in 4 years, this initiative has raised $560,000. He also gives back to the New York Community, visiting a NYC firehouse every September 11 to recognize firefighters, and has also donated lots of cash and resources to help with the clean up from Hurricane Sandy.
From the Washington Nationals, SS Ian Desmond (Potomac Nationals) sits on the Board of Directors for the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, a facility and organization that uses the game of baseball to promote healthy lifestyles and character development for at-risk youth. In 2012, thanks to the power of social media, Desmond met through twitter a 20-year old man with neurofibramitosis, the two formed a special bond, and Desmond went back to twitter to start a campaign to raise money to fight this disease. The goal was to raise $10,000-they raised $32,000, all of which goes to NF awareness.
So some good candidates this year. All are worthy causes, and all are exactly what Roberto Clemente would have wanted.