By KATIE KIRTLAND
The Roberto Clemente Award is given annually to the Major League Baseball (MLB) player who most exemplifies not only talent and knowledge of the game, but sportsmanship and community involvement. Furthermore, the player must have made significant contributions to his team in the year received. This award has been given out since 1971, and is still considered to be the most prestigious off-field award a player can receive.
There are nominees for the Roberto Clemente Award from each club announced for both the American League (AL) and the National League (NL) — 15 per league. Once the 30 nominees are chosen by a panel of esteemed members of the MLB community, voting is opened to the public. Alongside the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira, other notable nominees include: Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, Torii Hunter of the Minnesota Twins, Curtis Granderson of the New York Mets (and a former Yankee) and Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
One of the greatest things about this award is that it isn’t all about the statistics. When a voter clicks on a name to know why he is in consideration for the Roberto Clemente Award this year, they don’t see a list of statistics and how he did in last year’s playoffs. It’s not about that. The voter will see a comprehensive list from the last five years of the local charities that player has been an active part of. While these men are paid a lot of money to do what they do best, people are also paying attention to the way they behave off the field.
After the Alex Rodriguez scandal involving steroids last year, fans all over the country have lost a little bit of faith in their idols. Personally, my little brother, who is 14, used to have an Alex Rodriguez jersey that he loved and now he won’t wear it anymore. This disappointment from public figures can really impact the people watching them, but the Roberto Clemente Award draws attention to the MLB players who are also exemplary members of their community. It brings the spotlight to the people who are truly trying to do the best they can with what they’ve been given.
Mark Teixeira plays first base for the New York Yankees, but he does so much more than that off the field. He’s associated with four community charities: Harlem RBI, DREAM Charter School, Mark Liberatore Memorial Scholarship and the Mark C. Teixeira Athletic Scholarship Fund. Since 2010, he has personally donated $1.1 million to Harlem RBI and DREAM. In addition to the personal donations, he helped raise $17.05 million by donating his time to co-chair the annual Bids for Kids gala. Teixeira was named chair of the Homerun Leadership Council in 2012, which is the advisory board for Harlem RBI (the charity which is probably nearest to his heart). Most recently, Teixeira got his teammates Alex Rodriguez and Brett Gardner to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge with him to help raise money for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Teixeira, a Yankee since 2009, is bringing so much to the New York City community, particularly kids. He is a fantastic candidate for the Roberto Clemente Award. The award has gone to three previous Yankees: Ron Guidry in 1984, Don Baylor in 1985 and, most recently, Derek Jeter in 2009. Last year, it was awarded to two players – one from each league. This is set to be a new tradition for the award, so perhaps New York will get to be home to two winners this year. The winners will be announced during the 2015 World Series.