Roberto Clemente's 3,000th and final hit came against Mets lefty Jon Matlack. It's a fact Marlins right-hander Pablo López knows because of his late father, Danny, who was a big baseball fan.
"I only know the name because I remember my dad's voice right now mentioning the name, and it was just little cool things like that," López said. "He talked to me about the baseball aspect of it, but then obviously the unfortunate circumstances, like how he left this world, but the meaning behind what he was doing.
"That's something that stays with you, because this person was willing to go on New Year's Eve, hopped on a plane full of provisions, things to help the earthquake people. This person was so selfless. He put himself out there to just help so many people. Those are the two main things I remember hearing from my dad. The baseball side of it, and then the off-the-field [stuff], how he was willing to put himself out there."
That anecdote makes López being named the Marlins' 2022 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Capital One even more special. The Roberto Clemente Award is the annual recognition of a Major League player who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field. López is a first-time nominee.
"It's a great honor," said López, who was named the NL Pitcher of the Month for April and already has set career highs for starts and innings in 2022. "It's probably the highlight of my season right there. It's been an emotional season with a lot of firsts, a lot of good opportunities, but being honored as a nominee for such a prestigious award, that makes me feel very humble, and it just makes you realize that we are baseball players, but there's so much more that we can do, so many people that we can reach, so many people that we can impact.
"And when you think about it, we have such an amazing platform, and the opportunities that we have to make the decisions to help other people, that means so much to me. In our life, every day, we get to make decisions: Sometimes they're small, sometimes they're big. So whenever I'm presented with an opportunity to help someone, my decision is always going to be, 'Of course.' I'll take that opportunity, because if I was in their shoes, I would really appreciate that."
López, whose late parents were doctors in Venezuela, believes their line of work set an example and laid a foundation for altruism.
"I just feel like that resonated with me, and it just made a big impact on me in the future," López said. "The careers they chose and the passion that they executed their careers and stuff, it just made me realize that they were very committed. They were very selfless. I'm doing this not for myself. I like what I do, but with what I do, there's so many people that I can help and just improve, and I think that just stuck with me."
Even during his Minor League days, when he came over to the Marlins in a 2017 trade with the Mariners, López told the organization he was interested in giving back.
This season, the 26-year-old López has visited students at Renaissance Charter School in Doral, Fla., in recognition of April as Stress Awareness Month. He shared how he handles stressful situations and maintains a positive mindset on and off the field, then offered techniques that could help the students remain calm during their tests.
Throughout the season, López has helped the club recognize individuals or groups for their impactful work in the South Florida community during Marlins Impact Moments. He also has volunteered to accompany special guests at the ballpark through Make-A-Wish or auctions. And López has supported the fundraising efforts of the Miami Marlins Foundation over the years.
Both the school visit and López's support of Bark at the Park, where a portion of the proceeds benefit local causes, hold personal meaning: His wife, Kaylee, is a teacher, and they adopted a dog, Bennie.
López hopes to get even more involved. He has been brainstorming ideas of what he would like to do next, beginning with sending Mizuno baseball equipment to the Luz Cabimas Little League he played in growing up. Last year, he was able to send enough for a few teams.
"Hopefully with time I get the opportunity to do more and more," López said. "I'm fortunate enough to live in the South Florida community to do these things. If I'm able to figure something out for back home, right now the stuff I do for back home, it's like a small project, but I want to make it something big. I envision it getting bigger and more important, and hopefully we get to that point."