PITTSBURGH -- The Roberto Clemente Award is one of Major League Baseball's most esteemed honors, and is accessible to every player in the game. Each of the 30 clubs has a nominee for the award.
However, no team can possibly have a candidate as meaningful as the Pirates, and no choice can possibly be as appropriate as the man announced as Pittsburgh's nominee -- Andrew McCutchen.
Tuesday is Roberto Clemente Day throughout Major League Baseball, a day instituted on the 30th anniversary of his passing in 1972 to keep alive Clemente's spirit of giving.
Voting runs from Tuesday through Oct. 6 at chevybaseball.com as fans help decide which of those 30 club winners will receive this prestigious recognition.
The nominees were chosen based on their dedication to giving back to the community, as well as their outstanding ability on the field.
The Pirates center fielder has dedicated his career to following The Great One's playing footsteps and his life to mirroring Clemente's social conscience and commitment. Being nominated for an award that bears Clemente's name will buckle McCutchen's knees more than those "MVP! MVP!" chants he has been hearing at PNC Park.
"I'm honored to be a part of this," McCutchen said Monday, before the Pirates' game against San Diego in PNC Park. "He's definitely a person I admire. It's great to be wearing this uniform and representing his team, and being a nominee means I'm trying to do everything I can to help the community. I like to make a difference there, too."
This connection to Clemente is nothing new to McCutchen.
"Look at Roberto Clemente, at what he did," he had said last winter at PirateFest. "I don't want people to know me because I played baseball. I want people to know me for other things I did outside a baseball field. Yeah, Clemente was a great baseball player, but the things he did off the field said more about him. That's the person that I admire, and that's how I want to be."
As talented as McCutchen is on the field, the six-year, $51.5 million contract given him in March 2012 recognized his off-the-field persona as well, club chairman Bob Nutting made eminently clear when that agreement was reached.
"We were willing to make this commitment," Nutting had said, "because Andrew not only is an elite center fielder with a great future, but also a great force in our community, an inspiration to me and others in the organization."
In other words, a reflection of Clemente in that same community. Out of uniform, Clemente was all about humanity. Away from the ballpark, McCutchen is largely about Habitat for Humanity.
Serving as Pittsburgh-area spokesman for that organization is the most visible branch of McCutchen's humanitarian tree -- this November, he will host Habitat's first gala event -- but it is a big tree.
"Cutch's Crew," begun in 2010, mentors inner city at-risk youth and baseball players in the Greater Pittsburgh area. Attending games and special clinics at PNC Park are features of the program.
Only recently, McCutchen with Pirates Charities donated the funds needed by a Homewood-Brushton YMCA group to cover travel costs to a musical education trip to Prague, Czech Republic.
McCutchen freely gives his time to such endeavors, and also actively recruits teammates to join him in community endeavors. He defines the spirit of the Roberto Clemente Award.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.