HOUSTON – Dominican home runner Nelson Cruz was named Wednesday the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, which is awarded annually by the Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner’s office to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement. and the individual’s contribution to his team. “
Cruz, who played for the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays in the 2021 season, is the 50th player to receive the Roberto Clemente Award and the fourth native of the Dominican Republic. He joins Sammy Sosa (1998), Albert Pujols (2008) and David Ortiz (2011).
“It’s a surprise,” Cruz said to ESPN Digital. “There are so many players who have also done a great job and they deserve it, but only one can win it each year. It is a great honor to continue the legacy of Roberto Clemente, ”added Cruz, who was a finalist in 2018 and 2020.
Cruz, a seven-time All-Star, was nominated by the Minnesota organization, which also won him in 1977 (Rod Carew), 1994 (Dave Winfield) and 1997 (Kirby Puckett). Cruz will receive the trophy during a ceremony before the second game of the World Series in Houston, from Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and representatives of the Clemente family.
“I come from an extremely poor community and I have had the opportunity to do many things thanks to baseball. For me, baseball is more than a game because it has given me the opportunity to help my town develop and now have things that 10 years ago it did not have, “said Cruz, a native of Las Matas de Santa Cruz, province Montecristi, on the border of the Dominican Republic with Haiti.
In his hometown, Cruz helped feed more than 700 families and provided financial support to people unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic. In total, nearly 1,200 families received direct support from Cruz due to difficulties related to COVID-19.
After a childhood friend lost his home in a fire, Cruz provided his town with a fire truck, 80 uniforms, and an ambulance to help treat and transport people to the nearest hospital, which is nearly an hour away. away.
Every year, Cruz’s “Boomstick23 Foundation” brings dentists and optometrists to their city clinic to provide free checkups, medicine, and glasses to their fellow citizens. This summer, construction began on an educational and technical center to train on technical skills and how to better use the land to grow crops.
“It’s something I learned from my father, watching him as a child fighting for the community,” said Cruz, who last year received the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Sports Award at the ESPYS gala organized by ESPN.
Major League Baseball recognition for community work exists since 1971, when it was baptized with the name of “Commissioner’s Award”, but after the tragic death of the “Carolina Comet”, in the new year of 1972, it was renamed with its name in 1973. Clemente lost his life in a plane crash, while carrying aid to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua.
As a player, Clemente was one of the best of all time. The great right fielder had 3,000 hits, batted .317 with four batting titles, won 12 Gold Gloves, went to 12 All-Star Games and amassed 94.8 WAR in 18 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates.