Oct. 30 Roberto Clemente Award presentation
SAM RYAN: Hello, everyone and welcome. I'm Sam Ryan from MLB Network. This is a special press conference to announce the recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet, and I think you all have a clue as to who the recipient is this year.
This prestigious award pays tribute to Roberto Clemente's legacy, achievements and character by recognizing a Major League Baseball player who best represents the game through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship, community involvement and helping others. The Roberto Clemente Award is named for the Hall of Famer and 15-time All-Star who tragically died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
An exemplary person and special player was taken from the world that night. From that day forward his humanitarian spirit has lived on, thanks in part to our first speaker: As the MLB 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: Good evening. Thank you very much. Excuse my throat. I have some problems today.
As Major League Baseball's Goodwill Ambassador I feel extremely proud for the support of Major League Baseball and Chevy provide to our communities. Roberto and I spent most of our time working with children and their families. Roberto's valued social service to others, sportsmanship and leadership. And Roberto would be very happy to know the way today's players help people and support so many important causes. My congratulations to the 2015 team nominees for all that they do.
This year's recipient exemplifies Roberto's and mine philosophy. Andrew McCutchen, you are a great ballplayer both on and off the field, and Roberto would have been proud to see you standing up here today.
Congratulations on becoming the 2015 award recipient. It is my privilege to welcome you as the newest member of the Roberto Clemente Award family. Thank you for all that you and Maria continue to do. Congratulations and God bless you and your family always. (Applause.)
SAM RYAN: Thank you so much, and as she said, Roberto would be proud today. And I also want to recognize Roberto's family: Roberto and Vera's Roberto sons, Roberto, Jr., Luis and Roberto Enrique. Thanks for being with us. And Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting and his family also here today (applause).
Now the Roberto Clemente Award is presented by Chevrolet, the official vehicle of Major League Baseball. To speak on Chevrolet's behalf, please welcome Senior Manager of Media and Experiential Marketing & Brand Partnership for Chevrolet, Steve Haener (applause).
STEVE HAENER: Thanks and good evening, everyone. First off, I'd like to thank the Clemente family for allowing Chevrolet to be part of such a prestigious award. We are very honored. Through our partnership I'm pleased to announce that we've been able to raise more than two million dollars for various charitable causes across the country. And this year we're making another monetary contribution as well as donating a brand new Chevy to the charity of your choice.
Once again, sincere thank you to the Clemente family, Major League Baseball and a sincere congratulations to you, Andrew. (Applause.)
SAM RYAN: To note, the recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award, based on a combination of fan vote on ChevyBaseball.com and a panel of dignitaries including Vera and our next speaker. And to officially present the 2015 Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet, please welcome Baseball Commissioner, Rob Manfred (applause).
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: Good evening, everybody. When I became Commissioner, I looked at our business and realized that I had some tremendous assets to work with, and three of those assets are represented here this evening. First of all, we have a tremendous group of sponsors that support our game. We have a long and deep relationship with Chevrolet. They're a national sponsor of ours. They've been a long-time sponsor of the Roberto Clemente Award. And it goes all the way down through their organization, right down to dealers who across the country have built baseball fields for young people to play on. So I really want to thank Chevrolet not only for the $2 million that they've donated to really worthy causes as part of this program, but for your overall support of baseball.
A second great asset is the history of our game. And to my left sits an important representative of that history, Vera Clemente. She is Major League Baseball's Goodwill Ambassador. She does wonderful work on behalf of Major League Baseball throughout the year. It is genuinely our pleasure to have you here this evening, and we thank you for your continued work with Major League Baseball.
The third and most important asset is our players. Our players are not only great athletes, but they are great human beings. And the Roberto Clemente Award program really brings that point home each and every year for me. I receive as a voter a notebook with a nominee from each club. And literally the description of what our players do in their communities. One is better than the next. The nominees from the Royals, Alex Gordon, and the Mets' Curtis Granderson, the good work that they do in their communities is truly unbelievable. And Andrew, you really were the best of the best. Whether it's with Pirates' charities, with your own charity. I know you've been very active with Habitat for Humanity and I know the Make A Wish group, as well.
If anyone wants to have a video rendition of how important and impactful the work Andrew has done is, I urge you to look at the special that ESPN did on a wish that Andrew granted for a young boy from Maryland. And it really is a moving piece. It's an example of how important the good works players like you do every single day.
So on behalf of Major League Baseball, I want to present you with the Roberto Clemente Award. Don't hold that too long, okay? It's very heavy. And congratulations to you. (Applause.)
ANDREW McCUTCHEN: First and foremost, thank God because without Him, none of this is possible.
Honestly, I didn't really have anything planned to say. So it's honestly all coming from the heart. And I think that's the best thing to have, and I'd like to thank the Commissioner. I'd like to thank you as well, Mr. Haener. I'd like to thank you, Mrs. Clemente, and the family, as well. I just thank you for just giving me this opportunity to be able to have this award. And also I'd like to thank my wife for pushing me to be a better person on and off the field. John, my PR guy. I've got to give you some, too, because you helped me so much with basically going out there with these dreams that I have, and you put them out there in front to where I can make them work. So, thanks, man.
I feel like it kind of means a little more to me just because I wear a Pirate uniform. Clemente, he wore a Pirate uniform, as well. I'm a bit partial, just because of that. But it really is just a great award to have. And it caught me off guard, because the things that I hear, the people that I encounter who had some type of history with Roberto Clemente, they always have these stories about what a tremendous guy he was. The things that he did off the field.
Long story short, this guy would say when he was a kid and Clemente lived at a house, and he knocked on his door and Clemente came down all wet, and had a towel wrapped around him like he just got out of the shower. And instead of Clemente saying, "Just go on", and he invited the kid in and sat him down and he gave him something to drink and he signed something for him. And that was just one person who encountered him. And he had that memory forever.
You know, it is unbelievable to see the impact that he made. I can only hope that I can do at least half that he did. I know that if he was here I think he would say that as long as I'm doing something, that's what matters. And so I just want to thank you guys again. I really appreciate it. (Applause.)
SAM RYAN: Congratulations, Andrew. We're going to open up for a Q & A now. But please keep the questions on the award.
Q. Rob and Vera both: Rob, could you talk about how important it is for baseball to have players that are both MVP-caliber players and winning awards like this. Vera, could you talk about what it means to you, personally, to have a Pirate player that you've gotten to know well win this award?
COMMISSIONER MANFRED: I think in a sport like ours you have to have fans that bond with your players, because in an everyday game you need your fans engaged on a daily basis. And to have fans like that, they have to feel some personal connection to the players.
So when somebody like Andrew, he flew in today to accept this award. This afternoon, he also went with me to Mount Sinai to visit a cancer ward. Those sorts of activities build the kind of bond that's so crucial to growing our game over the long haul. And it's especially important in addition to giving his time, he goes out on the field and is one of the best players in the game.
VERA CLEMENTE: Okay. It's the first time in all the years Roberto Clemente Award has been celebrated with Major League Baseball -- the second one from the Pirates team to win the Roberto Clemente Award. And I am very happy that you are part of this family, too, and from this family of award winners. I know Roberto would be very happy to see a Pirate player being on his team. Congratulations.
Q. When were you notified of this award? Seems like it was kept in great secrecy, I was wondering when you found out.
ANDREW McCUTCHEN: They told me to keep it a secret. It was kind of hard because I was so excited. I've known about it for, I don't know, a week, if that. Yeah, something like that, known for about a week now. And they told me and told me, "Congratulations". I was like, "For what?" They were like, "the Clemente Award." I was like, "No. No way!"
And it almost reminded me of when I first got called up to the Major Leagues. I got the call from my manager at the time, and he told me and I didn't believe him. I had the same reaction. I felt the same, honestly, because this is such a prestigious award and such an honor to have it. That's going to go right there with the MVP, Silver Sluggers, whatever it may be. This right here is the most important to me because it just shows for myself personally that I'm doing the right things.
Q. Do you think chopping off your dreadlocks for charity put you over the top?
ANDREW McCUTCHEN: I don't know, you'll have to ask the people who voted (laughter).
I don't know, but it's kind of crazy to think that people would pay money just to have locks of my hair. It's kind of crazy to me. But people will do anything just to feel like they have a part of you. I did it for a good cause, that's for sure.
Q. You kind of touched on this, but if you could expand on it a bit more. Could you describe how the spirit of Roberto Clemente is still with you and with anybody who puts on a Pirate uniform?
ANDREW McCUTCHEN: I feel like he's everywhere, from inside the clubhouse to, like I said before, the people you encounter who have had some history with him. You always feel like he's there. Being out there in the outfield and having the right field wall being 21 feet. The bridge being right behind you, the Roberto Clemente Bridge, the statue, I just feel like he's everywhere and his spirit is definitely within me just because of the fact that I get to hear about him a lot. And I love every minute of it. And it's because I want to strive to be like he was, a person who would give you the clothes off of his back just to make this world a better place.
And so I feel like he is everywhere, not only in the Pirate clubhouse and in the Pirate community, but I feel like he's all around baseball. This is an individual award for myself, but honestly there are so many people in the game of baseball who do so much, and we can't forget about that. I just think there's a lot of people who help. And there's a lot of people trying to make a difference.
Q. As a very young Pirates Minor Leaguer, even before you got to the Big Leagues, was Roberto Clemente part of the curriculum? How do you learn about Clemente as a young Pirate?
ANDREW McCUTCHEN: Actually I can go back before I was even drafted by the Pirates. When I was around 11, 12 years old I went to a camp in San Juan, Puerto Rico. And it was called Roberto Clemente Camp, and that's basically where it started for me. I didn't know anything about him until then. Knowing that I went to Roberto Clemente Camp, I met Manny Sanguin in there, a guy I still know to this day. I just remember his loud, boisterous voice, just telling me what things mean in Spanish. I didn't know.
Ever since then it's been there. To put on a Pirate uniform and I honestly think that it's not by chance that it happened. I think there's a Greater Power there that led me in that direction. So I was very happy to be wearing a Pirate uniform, and to know that Roberto Clemente was wearing the same one.
Q. You thanked your wife for helping you become a better person, but I wanted to ask you about what was your original inspiration for getting involved in the community?
ANDREW McCUTCHEN: I honestly think that it just came with growing up. I didn't have everything in the world. A lot of things we had to work for as a family. I've learned a lot and my parents have taught me a lot. But not only doing things, trying to do for myself, but also helping others, that's always been big with them, listening, helping any way that you can. They've taught me a lot and I just feel like -- I was in a position to where I didn't have the fanciest things or I didn't have the best life ever, but it was a great life. But I think that kind of pushed me to want that for other people, to have a better life. I think that was really the motivation of mine, always is and always will be. I feel like now that I have the platform like baseball to help, I'm going to try to use it to the best of my ability.
SAM RYAN: We're going to take some time for a quick photo op, and then they will depart to the field for some on-field ceremonies.