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Anthony Rizzo Clemente Award interview

MLB.com

ROBERT FLORES: Good afternoon everyone, welcome to Houston, Texas, and Game 3 of the World Series between the Astros and the Dodgers. My name is Robert Flores, I'm one of the hosts on MLB Network. Special thanks to you of those of you also watching on MLB.com.

It's my pleasure to welcome all of you to this special news conference to announce this year's recipient of Major League Baseball's most prestigious individual honor, the Roberto Clemente Award. This award pays tribute to the late Hall of Famer's legacy, achievements, and character, by recognizing a Major League player, who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions both on and off the field.

ROBERT FLORES: Good afternoon everyone, welcome to Houston, Texas, and Game 3 of the World Series between the Astros and the Dodgers. My name is Robert Flores, I'm one of the hosts on MLB Network. Special thanks to you of those of you also watching on MLB.com.

It's my pleasure to welcome all of you to this special news conference to announce this year's recipient of Major League Baseball's most prestigious individual honor, the Roberto Clemente Award. This award pays tribute to the late Hall of Famer's legacy, achievements, and character, by recognizing a Major League player, who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions both on and off the field.

MLB has been recognizing Major League players for their philanthropic work since 1971. This special honor was named the Roberto Clemente Award back in 1973 to immortalize the 15-time All-Star after he was lost in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972, while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

The original name of this special recognition was the Commissioner's Award. So it's fitting that I now welcome our Commissioner, Rob Manfred to officially announce this year's Roberto Clemente award recipient.

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Let me start by saying, that was a good rename, Roberto Clemente for the Commissioner's. When we think about our season-long awards, the Roberto Clemente Award is really the most prestigious, because it combines recognition for what the player has done on the field with his work in the community. It is fitting that this award is named for Roberto Clemente, and I would like to thank Vera, who is here with us today, for continuing to work with us in selecting the winner of the award each year, and for all the great work she does this the community continuing the legacy of her great husband.

It's an interesting fact, we actually have eight Roberto Clemente Award winners that are going to be in the ballpark tonight. And this list shows you some of the great, great players and great people who have won this award previously: Hall of Famers John Smoltz and Greg Biggio; Harold Reynolds, Al Leiter, David Ortiz, Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Beltran and Curtis Granderson. It's a pretty nice list of guys who have done a great work over a long period of time.

It's my pleasure to announce tonight that Anthony Rizzo is going to join this list for his tireless work on behalf of children with cancer. I think probably everyone in this room knows that Anthony is a survivor, himself. Through the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation. There has been great work done. They support children's cancer centers both in Florida and in Chicago. They have supported oncology life specialists to help young children deal with the aspects of the disease that are beyond the medical. And sponsored camps that children with cancer can go to to have a normal summer kind of experience.

More important, though, than any of those support activities is Anthony's personal involvement with kids. I went back and actually saw a couple of recent Twitter posts of yours that you're interacting with kids, and we all know how much that means.

Anthony, congratulations on behalf of all of us from Major League Baseball, well deserved. (Applause.)

ROBERT FLORES: Thank you, Commissioner. Roberto Clemente's legendary humanitarian spirit lived on, thanks in part to our next speaker. As Major League Baseball's goodwill ambassador, she continues to share Roberto's message of giving back through service. It is my pleasure to introduce the wife of Roberto Clemente, Vera Clemente (applause).

VERA CLEMENTE: Thank you. I thank you, Commissioner Manfred, and Major League Baseball for continuing to celebrate the efforts of giving back through this great baseball players and human beings in honor of Roberto's legacy of helping others. This year we honor another great human being, as well as a fantastic first basemen for the Chicago Cubs. I'm honored to welcome to the Roberto Clemente Award family Anthony Rizzo, who as a cancer survivor, has served as an inspiration to those children who need him the most. God bless you for your work and continued success on and off the field. Congratulations and welcome to the family (applause).

ROBERT FLORES: Thank you. Now, also here with us here today is Roberto and Vera's son, Roberto, Jr (applause). It's now my distinct honor to offer the floor to our award winner, who is joined by his parents, brother and fiance. Now it should be noted Anthony Rizzo is the third member of the Chicago Cubs to receive this award. He now joins Rick Sutcliffe and Sammy Sosa. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2017 Roberto Clemente Award recipient, Anthony Rizzo (applause).

ANTHONY RIZZO: Thank you. I mean what an honor this is to be sitting here. Vera, Roberto, Jr., thank you guys for being here, Commissioner Manfred, Major League Baseball, my family is here, my fiance and her family, Jed, everyone from the Cubs here, Mark.

This is something that is so humbling to receive. And I feel like I'm going to say "we" a lot because everyone here and everyone that's part of this, and I'm going to thank them real quick, starting at the top with Mr. Ricketts and the Cubs, who from the day I got to Chicago spoke a lot about being in the community. Without him and his efforts and pushing our Cubs charity team, he allow all his Cub members to go out and do the off-field stuff.

Everyone with the Cubs that has helped with this foundation from the day I got there to and forming the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation and all the events. Abby Suarez, who runs my event, she's the best. To my mom and dad, who were there for me and my brother, when we first started this foundation. And the work that they've done tirelessly, you know, in the very beginning stages, to just make it so much easier for myself to play baseball and handle a whole -- it's like your off-the-field job is to give back, and that's what Roberto did so well. And they've helped me so much do that.

And Emily coming into my life has been a great blessing. And she's added on to the foundation.

But I got a chance to go to Roberto Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh this year, and see how amazing the work -- you could watch the biographies and the documentaries, but to go there and just see the history and the contracts and all the things that he did on and off the field, the accomplishments, he was one of the best hitters of his time, of all time. And to die with 3,000 hits, to pass away with 3,000 hits, the picture with the angel wings. It was so inspiring to me because as a baseball player, we have this platform, you know, there's a lot of good that goes along with becoming an athlete. As a baseball player, as an athlete, you can go out in the community and help and touch a lot of lives.

And it means a lot to me when I go into a hospital room and say hello to a kid and they light up like a Christmas tree, for five minutes of escaping the reality, because they're going through treatment. They're battling for their lives and I'm just grateful to be able to go in there and say hello to them and make them escape reality for a second.

It's not easy to go and see a lot of kids but we really enjoy it. And the work that we do is hopefully we're just scratching the surface. But as I said, I don't even -- this is amazing to win this award. It's the greatest award you can win and I will be forever appreciative of this and this will go front and center of anything I've ever done on the baseball field (applause).

ROBERT FLORES: Congratulations, again, Anthony. I'd like to open this up for some questions. I want to remind members of the media, let's keep it to the Roberto Clemente Award, please.

Q. The Commissioner mentioned the gathering with eight other Roberto Clemente Award winners in the ballpark tonight. What was it like for you to be part of that historic photo opp before the ceremony featuring people who have done so much in the community?

ANTHONY RIZZO: Just looking at the list, I was looking at the list a couple of days ago, and it's a lot of pressure to be on a list like that. There's Hall of Famers up and down that list and great players and great human beings. And to come in, I know all the guys that were here, fortunately, and just great, great guys. And it's amazing to win the award and they're not just disappearing, they're still active in baseball. And that's what this game means. We need guys active in baseball that do a lot of good work. And we have a lot of good players playing right now that are out in the community doing amazing work.

Q. Two questions, one for Mrs. Clemente, and one for Anthony: (Question in Spanish.) Anthony, does it have an emotional take on you receiving this award, knowing that you are a survivor, and now that you've helped all these kids?

VERA CLEMENTE: Well, I always mention that when Roberto was a little boy, really young, he saved this man in a car accident. He just rushed across the street, from his home. And helped this -- it was a heavy man. It was early in the morning and he fell asleep and hit was a tree, and he wasn't conscious. And the car was getting on fire. He was just nine years old or eight. He was practicing baseball in his patio, and when he saw that, he just ran across the street and then he opened the door and pulled the man out of the car. When he was helping this man, the next car that was coming stopped to help him, but he already got the man out of the car and saved him, you know.

And while he was alive, I always said he died the way he lived, helping others. And he even he suffered from his vertebrae, when he was playing baseball, I don't know how he did it, how he produced, because he had problems with his vertebrae. Myself, I used to give him some massages. Because he had suffered a car accident and had problems for years, and he produced even with that problem.

ROBERT FLORES: Anthony, the significance of this award in light of your own personal struggles, as well?

ANTHONY RIZZO: Yeah, let my try to do this without breaking down here. You know, sitting in a room in 2007 in Boston Mass General Hospital, I remember like it was yesterday talking to my mom. I was kind of upset she was coming up. I was like, "Mom, I'm fine. I'm going to be fine. Don't worry about me." And then doctors come in and break us the news. And I just remember sitting there saying, you know, I have my "Live Strong" T-shirt on, the Live Strong Foundation was so big at that time. I was saying, "We're going to start a foundation like this eventually." And literally ten years later it's coming full circle and winning this award and being recognized for it, I can't speak enough about the foundation and the work that we do and what we want to continue to do.

ROBERT FLORES: Commissioner, just the significance of when you see players that are so talented on the field like Anthony Rizzo, and these other Hall of Famers, and the work that they do off the field, as well?

COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Well, I think the interesting thing about this award each year is when you look at the 30 nominees, it is impossible, almost, to decide who's the most deserving among that group. And maybe the most flattering thing about being selected is when you look at what the other 29 guys did in the community and how hard they worked and the good work they've done, to be selected out of that group of 30 it really is amazing.

It's a tribute to our players. They do great work in the community every day, and this is just the pinnacle of that great work.

ROBERT FLORES: This concludes tonight's news conference. I want to mention Roberto, Jr. is part of relief efforts for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico. He and his organization are in need of donations for clean water in Puerto Rico, and you can go to help out by going to www.FH.org/Clemente. Please if you can help, we urge you to do so.

We will take a photo on stage and then our dais is going to depart for a special pregame ceremony on the field. Thanks again for coming, and congratulations again, Anthony Rizzo (applause).