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Barnhart: Clemente Award nod is 'humbling'

@alysonfooter
September 4, 2020

As the Reds' catcher, Tucker Barnhart is a skilled leader whose job it is to have a relationship with and to understand every one of his teammates. Barnhart exudes those same qualities away from the field, too. Reaching out to people and wanting to help them is a natural instinct.

As the Reds' catcher, Tucker Barnhart is a skilled leader whose job it is to have a relationship with and to understand every one of his teammates. Barnhart exudes those same qualities away from the field, too. Reaching out to people and wanting to help them is a natural instinct.

To that end, it’s no surprise that Barnhart was again named the Reds' Roberto Clemente Award nominee for 2020. It’s his second nomination; he was also up for the award in '18.

“What I want to be remembered for or talked about amongst my teammates is as a guy who did what he did on the field, but [who] was a role model off the field as well,” Barnhart said. “For me, that's what this award embodies: Being able to use my platform to do good in the community and give back. It’s extremely humbling to be nominated again.”

Barnhart was instrumental in providing assistance to communities in his two hometowns during the COVID-19 crisis: Zionsville, Ind., where he resides year-round, and Cincinnati, the center of his baseball world.

When Spring Training was shut down in March, Barnhart returned to Zionsville and heard a local radio personality, Dan Dakich, say he was going to get takeout for dinner to help support local businesses. Barnhart was inspired by that idea, and soon, “Takeout Thursday” was born.

Barnhart purchased a $500 gift card to two restaurants in Zionsville, The Friendly Tavern and Amore Pizzeria, and he used his social media channels to encourage people to go to these locations and get a meal, on his dime.

From there, Barnhart continued purchasing gift cards to at least one restaurant every Thursday, either in Zionsville or Cincinnati, and made it a different establishment each time.

“We really enjoy going to those places and eating at those restaurants, and I just wanted to try and do what we could to help them through a tough time,” Barnhart said. “I'm glad to say that all of the restaurants that that we helped were able to keep their doors open, as well as the majority of the shops that were that are in our little downtown. I'm thankful for that.”

Barnhart also had gift card delivered to frontline workers and volunteer organizations that were helping victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those efforts served as a springboard for other businesses to contribute, and on select Takeout Thursdays, Frisch’s would match Barnhart’s donation every week that a Cincinnati location was featured.

“I didn't go into it wanting to make it some big ordeal, but it turned into having big corporations wanting to partner and help out,” Barnhart said. “It's something that I'm very proud of.”

Barnhart also helped spearhead a fundraiser that he pitched while taking batting practice with other players before the season began, an idea for a sandlot game as a way to provide entertainment for fans during a challenging time. They decided to put an invite on social media, asking attendees for a $5 donation.

With the mayor’s approval, 30-40 players ranging from high school seniors to big leaguers gathered on two fields at Grant Park in Westfield, Ind., with over 200 socially distanced spectators in attendance. The event raised about $2,000 for Indianapolis RBI to go toward uniforms, equipment, league and tournament fees or any other needs.

“I've got two boys, and I want them to look up to their dad and be proud of what their dad did on the field, but off the field as well,” Barnhart said. “And given the opportunity in the platform that I have, I'm so fortunate to have, it made sense to do what we did during the pandemic and just try to help out a little bit.”

The league-wide winner of the Roberto Clemente Award will be selected via a blue ribbon panel, including Commissioner Rob Manfred, representatives from MLB-affiliated networks (MLB Network, FOX Sports, ESPN and TBS), MLB.com, as well as Clemente’s children: Enrique, Luis and Roberto Clemente, Jr.

Fans can vote for the Roberto Clemente Award via mlb.com/clemente21. The site will feature bios of each of the nominees and will allow fans to vote until the end of the season on Sunday, Sept. 27. The winner of the fan vote will count as one vote among those cast by the blue ribbon panel.

The concept of honoring Major League players for their philanthropic work was created in 1971 as the “Commissioner’s Award.” The recognition was renamed to the “Roberto Clemente Award” in 1973 in honor of 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.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.