Third baseman recognized for exceptional work in community
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YORK -- To consider David Wright for baseball's most prestigious individual award might sidle toward redundancy. Most valuable? Perhaps. But Wright has already proven plenty valuable -- if not invaluable -- in a discipline that can't be ranked.
He is, for a laundry list of good reasons, the Mets' nominee for this year's Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet. And it is a nomination that Wright does not take lightly.
"It's an incredible honor," Wright said. "Anything that comes along with a man that gave his life doing something for others is just incredible."
The Roberto Clemente Award recognizes the player who best exemplifies sportsmanship, community involvement and contribution to one's team. It is named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder whose spirit and goodwill will always be remembered. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua in 1972.
Fans can participate in the selection process of the overall winner of the award now through Oct. 5. The fan ballot winner will be tallied as one vote among those cast by a special selection panel of baseball dignitaries and media members. The panel includes Commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, widow of the Pirates' Hall of Fame right fielder. The winner will be announced during the World Series.
Every team has one nomination, and Paul Lo Duca represented the Mets in last year's selection process, when Craig Biggio was chosen. Wright would be honored to become the first Mets player to receive the recognition since Carlos Delgado in 2006.
The difference between Wright and the past two winners, however, is that Biggio retired after receiving the award, and Delgado, at 36, has only a few years left to play. Yet Wright has managed to pack as much charity into his short Major League career as many veterans do over decades.
Becoming the youngest Mets player in history to create a charitable organization when he established the David Wright Foundation in 2005, Wright has since seen his foundation grow into one of the game's finest philanthropic endeavors.
"From the moment that I got to the big leagues and realized the type of impact that I could make just by putting on this uniform on a daily basis, I wanted to do it," Wright said. "I wanted to try to help out in as many areas as I possibly could. You put this uniform on in New York and you have a positive influence in the community, so I jumped at the opportunity."
Wright's foundation raises money for charity throughout the New York metropolitan area and his native Norfolk, Va., hosting events such as his "Do the Wright Thing" gala in Manhattan each winter and a bowling event for children every summer.
His common sentiment regarding those he helps -- "I probably get more out of it than they do" -- is a believable one. And it would remain true, even with a Clemente Award in tow.
"I've never done the things I've done off the field for the recognition," Wright said. "It's something I truly enjoy doing."
These days, Wright spends his winters in Manhattan and not Virginia, in an effort to keep his charitable calendar full. Last year alone saw him host his gala, help dedicate a Mets room at the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island and drop into various hospitals, fire houses and police stations.
He has also established an academic scholarship at Virginia Tech, despite never attending the school.
During the season, Wright runs his 5-Star Kids Community Program, which allows underprivileged children to see games at Shea Stadium and helps contribute to various team-wide charitable projects. His auction packages for the Mets' Teammates in the Community fundraiser have helped garner roughly $120,000 over the past two years.
"To be able to give back to a community that has welcomed me with open arms as graciously as they have -- it's the very least I could do," Wright said. "I make New York home now, so I'm glad to be able to give back. I'm able to do the things I do away from the field because of my family and the way that the Mets have supported me and hung in there with me."