HOUSTON -- When Astros second baseman Jose Altuve was a kid growing up in Venezuela, he idolized fellow countrymen Omar Vizquel and Marco Scutaro, and Altuve remembered how gracious those big leaguers were with him whenever he had a chance to meet them.
In turn, Altuve makes it a point to be active in the community as much as he can, whether it's participating in clinics, signing autographs or anything else he can do to endear himself to the Houston fans. The Astros are rebuilding, and the 23-year-old is one of the centerpieces for the future -- on and off the field.
"Jose Altuve exemplifies what we're looking for in our Astros players, both in the way he plays on the field and the way he conducts himself off of the field," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said.
In fact, Altuve was recently named as the Astros' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes a Major League Baseball player who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.
"You spend time in your community, it's really important," said Altuve, who is now in his second full season. "I remember when I was a little kid and the good players spent time with me, and it was like a dream come true for me. If you can do everything for your community, I will be there."
Altuve has served as a tireless supporter and enthusiastic role model for at-risk children and teens in the Houston community through The Astros Foundation's two cornerstone programs -- the Community Leaders program and the Astros Urban Youth Academy.
At new Community Leader park openings, Altuve personally congratulated hundreds of at-risk youth baseball and softball players for sticking with their studies and continuing to make healthy choices. His first visit was just days into the 2013 season, and Jose's enthusiasm for the work has never wavered.
Altuve has been active in the Houston community since he was called up in 2011, and he has never been hesitant to sign autographs for fans or to visit the community in team-sponsored events throughout the season and the offseason.
Altuve was an All-Star in his first full season in the Major Leagues last year, when he hit .290 with seven homers, 37 RBIs and had 33 stolen bases. Thanks to a strong September, Altuve is on pace to set a career high for hits this season and has already reached career-best marks in RBIs and stolen bases.
In July, the Astros made their first significant commitment to the future by signing Altuve to a four-year, $12.5 million contract extension through 2017, with two club options for $6 million and $6.5 million.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.