Gray's Clemente nomination is a dream come true

September 13th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jessica Camerato’s Nationals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

When reached the Major Leagues, he wanted to use his place in baseball for more than what he could do on the mound. Giving back is a priority for the 25-year-old, and this season he is being recognized as the Nationals' Roberto Clemente Award nominee.

“It’s huge to be nominated this year,” Gray said at his recent community event, Glow & Throw with JoJo. “It’s something I’ve always sort of dreamed of being a nominee for. … Being able to give back to the community and be a guy that can say ‘I was a nominee’ -- and hopefully an award-winner of it -- it’s a lot. To see what Roberto Clemente did in the game and to be able to have my name sort of attached to that, it means a lot.”

The annual Roberto Clemente Award is presented to the big league player who “best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”

Gray quickly got involved in the D.C. community after being acquired by the Nats from the Dodgers in 2021. He has been the official player ambassador to the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy since 2022, supporting year-round youth development programs with baseball and softball players.

Since then, Gray has hosted scholar athletes at Nationals Park, delivered the commencement speech for the Academy’s eighth grade graduation and coordinated visits with teammates and coaches to the Academy, among other outreach.

Most recently, Gray came up with Glow & Throw with JoJo, an evening of glow-in-the-dark baseball activities with participants in the Academy’s HUSTLE program. He was joined by Alex Call, Keibert Ruiz and Dominic Smith for the special event.

Outside of baseball, Gray collaborated with the clothing brand Leovici to design a collection. A portion of the proceeds benefits the Academy.

“I don’t think I would have made it this far in the game of baseball without people giving back to me, providing for me opportunities to play travel baseball, travel all over the country, training, you name it,” Gray said. “I always want to just be at the forefront and be that guy that’s able to give back – whether it’s time or finances or gear or anything like that – to the community to be able to hopefully propel that next generation to be the next baseball players out here in the MLB and just be pioneers in their community.”

Voting for the 2023 Roberto Clemente Award is open through Oct. 1.