Eovaldi an All-Star on and off field

September 16th, 2021

BOSTON -- When you watch Nathan Eovaldi pitch, his sheer competitiveness stands out as much as his high-octane fastball. Eovaldi doesn’t give an inch to his competitors.

Off the field, however, it is quite the opposite for the 10-year veteran.

And this is why Eovaldi is this year’s Red Sox nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, which goes annually to the player who best represents baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.

Even dating back to when he was a prospect coming up through the Dodgers’ farm system or trying to establish himself as a rotation member of the Marlins, Eovaldi became intrigued by the difference a player could make off the field.

In fact, in Los Angeles, Eovaldi learned that a team’s most dominant player can be a tone-setter in that regard.

“Coming up with the Dodgers, [Clayton] Kershaw was always giving back to the community and trying to be involved with all the social [causes],” he said.

In three seasons with the Marlins, Eovaldi got more actively involved in a cause that became close to his heart.

“I got involved with the Wounded Warrior Project and helped out with Mike Dunn,” said Eovaldi. “We were able to go out there and see the Walter Reed Clinic [in Washington D.C.], we got to go out there first-hand and talk to some of the guys who were out there recovering from injuries and things like that.

“Being able to experience that, it made me want to get involved with the Wounded Warrior project a little bit more. Mike Dunn, he was running it with the Marlins, but I helped out and we donated a little bit of money and helped out for our troops.”

By the time he got to Boston in 2018, Eovaldi saw first-hand how special the relationship was between the Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund, which specializes in pediatric care for cancer patients.

Former Red Sox infielder Brock Holt was legendary for his Jimmy Fund visits, and making kids smile. When Holt departed as a free agent after the 2019 season, Mitch Moreland took that lead.

And when Moreland was dealt at the 2020 Trade Deadline, it was obvious who was next in line to become the team’s Jimmy Fund captain for this season.

“The Jimmy Fund reached out to me and asked if I would want to do it. I didn’t hesitate at all,” said Eovaldi. “It was a huge honor to be able to help out with them and try to raise money. They did an outstanding job of taking care of all the cancer patients, but also taking care of the families.”

The family part of it hit home for Eovaldi this past offseason, when he spent a lot of his time in a Texas hospital visiting his grandfather, who ultimately died of lung cancer.

“I kind of got to experience what it’s like to spend a lot of time at a hospital,” Eovaldi said. “I took my grandmother there every day. He was in the intensive care unit for about two weeks, so we were there from when they opened to when they were kicking us out, spending time with him until he passed away. The nurses and the doctors did an outstanding job not only taking care of patients, but also families that are in there and explaining everything to us.

“So it’s nice to not only give back to the hospital and the Jimmy Fund, but also to help out with the nurses and everything they do.”

While Eovaldi envisioned making a lot of in-person visits to the Jimmy Fund this season, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic had other ideas.

Thankfully, technology has allowed for some key connections.

“If we can do a couple of Zoom calls here and there to help them out and brighten their day, it’s all worth it,” said Eovaldi. “They’re all excited, they’re looking at the other side of the screen and you can tell that they’re nervous.

“The first couple of questions, it’s how hard do you throw, things like that, baseball stuff, and then they start to get comfortable and start asking you more personal questions, favorite TV shows, video games, stuff like that. So it’s fun to get to know them, and if you can distract them from their day and let them focus on you and have that to talk about with everybody else, it takes the pressure off of everything else. If I can do that, I’m more than willing to do it.”

By seeing what some children are going through, Eovaldi has gained even more perspective on what is truly important in life.

“The things that these kids have to go through, and patients in general, it’s unbelievable. Again, I can relate, going back to seeing my grandpa in the hospital bed and he just wanted to be out of the hospital and just be able to sit at home, and unfortunately for these kids, all they know is the hospital,” said Eovaldi. “The attitude they have and just being thankful for the little things, it helps ground you and sometimes it’s hard to see [what they are going through], but it just gives you a better perspective on life.”