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Taillon nominated for Clemente Award

The Pirates and Major League Baseball announced on September 5 that pitcher Jameson Taillon was selected as the Pirates' 2018 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award. The prestigious honor is an annual recognition of a player from each team who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy, and positive contributions on and off the field. The winner of MLB's national Roberto Clemente Award will be announced during the World Series.   

Taillon has overcome more than his share of adversity in recent years -- including Tommy John surgery and a sports hernia operation. However, his most difficult test came in May of 2017 when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Remarkably, just five weeks after surgery he was able to take the mound again and declare himself cancer free. 

Taillon has used his experience to help others who have been impacted by cancer. He established a relationship with Lending Hearts, a local non-profit organization that provides emotional and social support to children and young adults with cancer. 

Through Lending Hearts, Taillon was able to combine two of his passions -- coffee and supporting those battling cancer. He partnered with Pittsburgh's Commonplace Coffee Co. to develop a special coffee called Lending Hearts Blend, and used his name and social media presence to promote it. Proceeds from the sale of the blend benefit Lending Hearts.Taillon also visited with young cancer patients during the Pirates' Pediatric Cancer Awareness Night, and participated in the baseBALD challenge. During the latter, he had his head shaved by a young man who was coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis.

"When you've had cancer and you're on a platform like I'm on, there's a responsibility that I accept," Taillon said. "If someone is going through a tough time and they see me being strong, hopefully that's motivational and inspirational for them and their families.

"I've had a whole new world open up to me by battling cancer. People will come up to me on the street and say: 'Hey, can you film a short little video? I'm going to send it to my nephew, who is battling leukemia.' Or I'll get: 'Can you sign a ball and have it read K cancer?' Stuff like that. It doesn't matter young or old, or what type of cancer. People feel a connection to me. So, it's my responsibility to be there for them and be a face of this." 

In addition to his efforts with cancer initiatives, Taillon asked that the Miracle League be one of the beneficiaries of the Pirates' Clemente Day celebration on September 5. That enabled Pirates Charities to host a Miracle League Fantasy Camp at PNC Park for adults with special needs from six local Miracle League programs. Taillon also recently established a relationship with the Taylor Hooton Foundation, a national non-profit organization that educates youngsters on the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs.

"Within the game, even being nominated for the Clemente Award is something guys take a lot of pride in," Taillon said. "In the big leagues, everyone can play baseball at an elite level. But can you also be elite off the field? It's nice to be recognized for that." 

Taillon became active in community outreach activities when he was pitching in the minor leagues. The team has a special program -- known as the Pirates Community Commitment Program -- that encourages players throughout the system to emulate Clemente's legacy of community service. More than 28,000 hours of community service have been performed by Pirates players throughout the organization since the program was implemented in 2008. Each player completes a minimum of 10 hours of service in their respective affiliate's community each season.