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Hill's communtiy effort leads to Clemente nomination

PHOENIX -- Aaron Hill was on hand at the D-backs' 15th Annual Winter Classic Holiday Party in December where more than 600 underprivileged kids received new pairs of shoes and got to interact with some of their favorite players.

Far from looking at the event as an offseason obligation, Hill relished the opportunity.

"To have something like this is special," Hill said that day. "You don't realize how much you can impact someone's life. It feels like it's something little to us just because we're happy to do it, but I don't think players realize how much of an impact we can have on someone's life and what we can do for kids. I mean, they're kids. If kids don't warm your heart, nothing else will."

It's that attitude and commitment to the community that makes Hill the D-backs' nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award.

The Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet pays tribute to Clemente's achievements and character by recognizing current players who truly understand the value of helping others. The 15-time MLB All-Star and Hall of Famer who died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

"Aaron has continued to prove he is a leader both on and off the field and this year is no exception," D-backs team president/CEO Derrick Hall said. "His selfless attitude and willingness to help wherever needed is commendable and represents what it means to be a D-back in every aspect."

Tuesday is Roberto Clemente Day throughout Major League Baseball, a day instituted on the 30th anniversary of his passing in 1972 to keep alive Clemente's spirit of giving. Voting runs from Tuesday through Oct. 6 at as fans help decide which of those 30 club winners will receive this prestigious recognition. The nominees were chosen based on their dedication to giving back to the community, as well as their outstanding ability on the field.

Hill was acquired by the D-backs from the Blue Jays in August 2011 and has not stopped hitting since.

After struggling throughout 2010 and the first part of '11 in Toronto, Hill was reborn in Arizona.

Last year was arguably the best year of Hill's career as he hit .302 with a career-best on-base plus slugging mark of .882. He was rewarded for his efforts with a Silver Slugger Award, the second of his career.

Arizona quickly became home for Hill and his wife, Elizabeth.

The couple liked the area so much that they bought a house not far from the team's Spring Training facility in Scottsdale following the 2011 season.

Hill dedicated a youth baseball field in Parker, Ariz. this past March as part of the APS Diamonds Back Field program. Aaron Hill Field is located 160 miles west of Phoenix and serves as the only youth baseball field in a town of 3,000 people.

True to his nature, Hill didn't just participate in the ribbon cutting ceremony, he spent the majority of the day meeting with more than 500 school children and residents of the Parker community taking photos and signing autographs.

Hill also played a big role in fulfilling Kyle Byrd's wish to become a D-backs player for a day through the Make-A-Wish Foundation and took part in the magical wish reveal.

Hill also gave Byrd private hitting lessons and showed Byrd around during his time at Chase Field.

Hill figures to be able to have even more of an impact in the community in the future as the D-backs signed him to a three-year contract extension this past offseason that should keep him in an Arizona uniform through 2016.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Aaron Hill