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Romo humbled to be Clemente Award nominee

Giants reliever cites youth influences for inspiring community involvement

PHOENIX -- Engaging in selfless endeavors came almost naturally to Giants reliever Sergio Romo. He was recognized for his generosity of spirit and with his time Tuesday, when he was named the Giants' nominee for this year's Roberto Clemente Award.

The honor is bestowed annually upon a Major Leaguer who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement. Clemente, the Hall of Fame outfielder who spent his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, perished on New Year's Eve 1972 while trying to deliver supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua.

Merely being nominated for the award overwhelmed Romo.

"It's very humbling. Actually, beyond humbling," he said.

Beginning Wednesday, Roberto Clemente Day, fans are encouraged to participate in the process of selecting the national Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet recipient by visiting to vote for one of the 30 club nominees. Voting ends Oct. 6 and participating fans will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to the 2014 World Series, where the national winner of the award will be announced.

Two of Romo's primary inspirational figures in baseball taught him lessons that eclipsed swinging a bat and gripping a fastball.

Romo, 31, grew up watching his father, Francisco, volunteer to help with local baseball camps, high school programs and various traveling teams.

"To see the respect he garners, I'm proud of that," Romo said.

Seeing former big league right-hander Rudy Seanez, who hailed from Romo's hometown of Brawley, Calif., continue his community involvement by building ballfields and other sports facilities after establishing himself as a Major Leaguer also left an impression.

Romo has followed these examples of giving back. He works with the Athletes In Math Succeed Program, Mission Graduates, the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation, the San Francisco Challenger Clinic and the Junior Giants.

Romo feels passionate about all these causes. But his personal background has led him to identify strongly with AIMS, which was created to inspire minority male students to challenge themselves academically, act as role models for elementary school children and prepare for college.

"I was an athlete in high school, and math was my best subject," Romo said.

Since establishing himself with the Giants, Romo was motivated toward civic-minded pursuits by having left-handers Barry Zito and Jeremy Affeldt, former Clemente Award nominees, as teammates. Zito founded Strikeouts For Troops, which helped unite wounded soldiers with their families, and Affeldt has devoted himself for years to fighting hunger and human trafficking.

"I didn't know I could be mentioned in the same breath with Roberto Clemente and my own teammates," Romo said.

The Giants will honor Romo before their Sept. 25 game against San Diego in a home-plate ceremony at AT&T Park. Romo will make a $7,500 donation to AIMS on behalf of Chevrolet and Major League Baseball.

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat.
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