PITTSBURGH -- There may not be a more outgoing, friendly man in the Pirates' clubhouse -- or perhaps in any Major League clubhouse -- than Jared Hughes. The big reliever is generous with his time when dealing with teammates, fans and media alike, treating everyone he comes across with the same level of respect and human decency.
Hughes' giving spirit extends to the Pittsburgh community as well. So it is little surprise that Hughes is the Pirates' nominee for this year's Roberto Clemente Award, the high honor named after the club's Hall of Fame player and humanitarian.
"It's an honor because of what Roberto Clemente not only meant to the city of Pittsburgh, but what he meant to the game and what he meant to the people who he cared about, who he went out and tried to help," Hughes said. "Roberto Clemente lost his life in a charitable effort. To be nominated for an award that has to do with charity with his name on it is a true honor to me."
Fans are encouraged to participate in the new process of selecting the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award by posting any nominee's voting hashtags to MLB's official social media accounts, @MLB on Twitter and Facebook.com/MLB. Hughes' hashtag is #VoteHughes.
Major League Baseball announced the 30 club nominees on Tuesday for the annual recognition of a player who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field. Each club nominates one player to be considered for the Roberto Clemente Award in tribute to Clemente's achievements and character by recognizing current players who truly understand the value of helping others.
Hughes' willingness to help others is on display virtually every day. He is typically the first player to welcome a new callup or to offer well wishes to a teammate who has been sent down to the Minors. He never turns down an interview request, always making himself available at his locker before and after games.
And Hughes never misses a chance to interact with fans or participate in a charitable effort. The 31-year-old has logged more than 200 hours of community service, averaging nearly 25 hours per season, as part of the Pirates Community Commitment Program. At the club's annual PirateFest convention, you might find Hughes wandering the floor on his own, signing autographs and taking pictures with fans.
Recently, Hughes has taken an increased interest in the "Blessings in a Backpack" charitable cause promoted by Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison. The initiative provides backpacks full of food for underprivileged students to eat over the weekend. Talk with Hughes about his involvement, and he'll dive into the importance of providing food and shelter for children so they can get the most out of their education.
Fittingly, Hughes reacted to news of his nomination on Tuesday with a shaved head, the end result of an event the Pirates took part in last week to promote awareness for pediatric cancer funding. Hughes did it all with a smile.
"I like to smile," Hughes said. "When you go into an event like that, it's all about having fun and smiling so the kids are having fun. That does help. When I put on my smile, hopefully I can rub off on people that I'm helping."
Andrew McCutchen was the Pirates' nominee last season and was presented with the MLB-wide honor in October, joining Willie Stargell as the only Pittsburgh players to receive the Clemente Award.
Wednesday marks the 15th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by MLB to honor Clemente's legacy and to officially acknowledge local club nominees of the Roberto Clemente Award. Clubs playing at home on Wednesday will recognize their local nominees as part of Roberto Clemente Day ceremonies. Visiting clubs will honor their nominees before another September home game.
As part of the celebration, the Roberto Clemente Day logo will appear on the bases and official dugout lineup cards and a special tribute video will be played in ballparks.
The original "Commissioner's Award" for philanthropic service was renamed in 1973 in honor of Clemente, the Hall of Famer and 15-time All-Star who died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.