The Roberto Clemente Award honors the many extraordinary philanthropic efforts that baseball players take on in addition to their playing time. It’s named for the legendary Hall of Fame Pirate Roberto Clemente, who was known for his charity work during his life before he tragically died in a plane crash while bringing earthquake relief to Nicaragua in December 1972. The award process has evolved over the years, but currently a team of baseball officials select one nominee per ballclub, and each member of that panel votes for the award. Fans can vote online for their choice, and that total vote counts as one additional vote for the award.
You can hear Roberto Clemente Jr. talk more about the award below:
It’s a wonderful time of year to honor some of the work that baseball players do off the field. In 2017 Anthony Rizzo won the award for his work for pediatric cancer with the Rizzo Family Foundation. Here’s what he said about the receiving the award:
“When I found out, it was really emotional for everyone involved in the foundation and my life,” Rizzo said. “Baseball is my passion. I love playing baseball. I want to be the best I can be, but to be able to reach out and reach so many different people on a different level, I never overlook it.”
Rizzo, 28, was a five-time nominee for the award before taking home the honors this season. His Rizzo Family Foundation has raised $4 million over the years helping families of cancer patients. Rizzo is a cancer survivor himself.
By a quirk of the trade deadline, two current Cubs are nominated for this year’s Roberto Clemente award and I wanted to take a quick look at the work they did to receive this honor.
Technically, Hamels is the Rangers nominee even though he currently plays for the Cubs. The nominations are made by clubs in early July and the Rangers decided to stick with Hamels as their nominee even after he’d been traded:
“We felt it was very appropriate that he remain our nominee,’’ said Rangers COO Neil Leibman, also chairman of the club’s charitable foundation. “We thank Cole and (wife) Heidi and The Hamels Foundation for the impact they have made.’’
The Hamels Foundation focuses on enriching the lives of children through education. You can take a look at some of their projects on their webpage, but specifically they focus on funding schools and scholarships in Malawi. They’ve given over $4.1 million, and their impact is pretty incredible.
Oh yeah, and who can forget the time he donated a mansion to a summer camp for children with special needs?
This is Hamels’ third time being nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award.
Like Rizzo, Jon Lester is a cancer survivor and his work with NVRQT (“Never Quit”) raises money for pediatric cancer research. They host a country fundraiser every year and Lester spends a lot of time in and around Chicago’s hospitals, oftentimes handing out symbolic NVRQT baseballs as symbols of hope, purity and play for children with cancer.
If you’re interested in supporting the foundation but couldn’t attend the fundraiser, they have a NVRQT gear store on their site.
Lester was moved by his nomination for the award, as you can see:
Players from the same team have won the award in consecutive years, so Rizzo being last year’s winner shouldn’t hurt Lester’s or Hamels’ candidacy. At a time when it seems like there are stories highlighting the bad behavior of players too often, it’s pretty awesome to have two Roberto Clemente nominees on the same team.
I have a lot of fun cheering for both Lester and Hamels when they take the mound, but cheering for them here is special in a different way. You can vote for Lester, Hamels or one of the other 28 nominees at this link. Let us know who you are voting for below.
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