Clemente Day extra special for Garcia, Ortiz

September 9th, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO -- Roberto Clemente’s legacy continues to reverberate deeply for Giants quality assurance coach Nick Ortiz.

Ortiz was born in Cidra, Puerto Rico, in 1973, the year Clemente became the first Latin American player inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. When Ortiz was nine or 10 years old, he had the opportunity to play at Roberto Clemente High School and grace the field named for the late Pirates star, who died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve in '72 while attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

“We all grew up with the figure of Roberto Clemente being very positive in our lives,” Ortiz said. “Not only because he was a great baseball player, but the way he just treated people. … He was known to help many that were in need, and I think that was what made him great.”

Ortiz honored Clemente on Wednesday by wearing his No. 21 during the Giants’ game against the Mariners at Oracle Park. He was joined by right-hander . Garcia was born and raised in Hawaii, but his father, Eddie, grew up in Puerto Rico idolizing Clemente and frequently shared stories of watching “The Great One” play.

Major League Baseball celebrated Roberto Clemente Day on Wednesday.

“I think the biggest thing for me was being able to represent being Puerto Rican,” Garcia said. “I'm born and raised in Hawaii, so I don't really have the full aspect of growing up in Puerto Rico, but just hearing my dad talk about Roberto Clemente, watching him play -- that's his favorite player. It just means a lot to my family and my dad to be able to wear No. 21.”

All Pirates players and coaches, the club for which Clemente played his entire Hall of Fame career, will also wear No. 21 on Wednesday. The Pirates retired Clemente’s number in 1973, but many Puerto Ricans, including Ortiz and Garcia, believe his No. 21 should be retired across MLB like Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.

A 15-time All-Star and 12-time Gold Glove Award winner, Clemente won four batting titles, recorded exactly 3,000 career hits and captured the National League and World Series MVP Awards during his illustrious 18-year career in the Majors. But he shone even brighter off the field, forging an unparalleled reputation as a humanitarian and as a fierce advocate for Latino players, who now represent nearly 30% of MLB’s player pool.

“He was pretty much our first voice as Latin Americans in the big stage,” Ortiz said. “He was our first Hall of Famer. He was our first All-Star player to be able to speak out and talk about the injustices that were happening in the 1960s. I think with all he was able to accomplish on the field, he was a better contributor off the field, helping others in need and just being the voice for many, many others that couldn’t be heard at that time.”

A few years ago, Ortiz took part in an event at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to call attention to the movement to retire No. 21 across MLB. He believes Wednesday’s initiatives show that the push is beginning to gain more traction, and he's optimistic that MLB will recognize the significance that a universal retirement for No. 21 would hold for the entire Latino community.

“It'll be a tremendous honor for us, not only Puerto Ricans, but Latinos all around the world,” Ortiz said. “I feel like he was our Jackie Robinson. I think it's something that Major League Baseball needs to dig into and look to see if they can retire No. 21.”

Injury updates
• Evan Longoria was out of the Giants’ starting lineup on Tuesday against the Mariners for the second consecutive game with a sore right glute, but manager Gabe Kapler said Longoria is feeling better and would be available off the bench. Pablo Sandoval started at third base in Longoria’s place.

• Alex Dickerson did not miss time after being diagnosed with a right knee contusion, starting in left field and batting second against Seattle right-hander Ljay Newsome. The 30-year-old slugger exited Monday’s game after fouling a ball off his right leg in the fourth inning, but X-rays came back negative.

• Jeff Samardzija will throw in another simulated game at the alternate training site in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday, Kapler said. Drew Smyly remains on track to be activated off the 10-day injured list on Wednesday or Thursday.