D-backs, Padres pay tribute to Clemente

September 16th, 2022

PHOENIX -- On Thursday night, the D-backs and Padres joined the rest of Major League Baseball in celebrating Roberto Clemente Day.

Prior to the series opener at Chase Field, there was a video tribute remembering Clemente, one of baseball’s all-time greats, for his achievements on the field and his contributions to the community. Then, Arizona infielder Josh Rojas, the team’s 2022 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, was recognized during an on-field ceremony alongside D-backs president/CEO Derrick Hall.

All nominees for this year’s Roberto Clemente Award could wear Clemente’s No. 21 during Thursday’s games, as well as previous award winners, players of Puerto Rican descent and others who wore the number during last year’s commemoration.

The D-backs had a pair of players wearing No. 21 jerseys -- Rojas and infielder Emmanuel Rivera. The Padres had six -- first baseman Josh Bell; right-handers Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Craig Stammen; third baseman Manny Machado; and outfielder Juan Soto.

Rojas learned a lot about Clemente earlier this summer when he and some teammates visited the Roberto Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh while in town to face the Pirates.

"It's exciting to wear the jersey," Rojas said. "It's an honor to wear it and to represent what he did for the game and what he did outside the game. It's pretty cool."

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said he wishes he had gotten the opportunity to watch Clemente play up close, but he's studied the kind of player Clemente was and -- even more importantly -- what kind of person he was.

That Clemente, who was born in Puerto Rico, lost his life while attempting to deliver relief aid to earthquake victims in Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua, is something that has stuck with Lovullo.

"He lost his life doing something very special for a community that really wasn't even his," Lovullo said. "That speaks volumes about his character and his love for people, and I'm glad that we recognize them in a very special way. Major League Baseball has done a great job with that."

Stammen, the Padres’ nominee for this year’s Roberto Clemente Award, called it a “very special honor” to get to honor Clemente by wearing his No. 21.

“I think it’s a great thing that we do with Roberto Clemente and Jackie Robinson,” Stammen said. “Those guys are pillars within our game of baseball and show the diversity that we have. And it shows the ability to overcome some things that are not great about our past and move forward and celebrate the things that are great about our future.”

Padres manager Bob Melvin has also been glad to see Roberto Clemente Day rise to the same level of recognition as Jackie Robinson Day (held every April 15) on the baseball calendar.

“As influential as [Clemente] was in the Latin community, what he did not only in baseball but off the field -- this is a true icon and hero in the sport,” Melvin said. “I’m happy it’s being represented how it is now.”