Stallings reps Bucs for Clemente Award

September 14th, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates catcher ' first-born son, Emmitt, is fascinated with jersey numbers, especially those of Pittsburgh players past and present.

On Tuesday, Emmitt’s dad became forever associated with the legendary No. 21, as the Bucs made him their nominee for the 2021 Roberto Clemente Award.

“I think what makes it really special, too, is my son knows and appreciates who Roberto Clemente is,” Stallings said. “So he thought it was like the coolest thing in the world.”

A proud father of two, Stalling has focused a lot of his charitable work on giving kids the best life possible. Since 2014, the Stallings family has sponsored a kid in the Dominican Republic named Miguel through Compassion International, a Christian nonprofit organization that seeks to aid children growing up in poverty around the world.

Little did Stallings know that along with the Roberto Clemente Award came a large charitable donation by the Pirates to Compassion International.

“They just do great work,” Stallings said of the charity. “Personal stuff aside, I didn’t know that the Pirates were going to do that, and to hear that they made a donation was really cool.”

It takes great dedication to supporting the community to do what Stallings has done over the past year. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to connect in person, but that hasn’t stopped the Pirates' catcher.

Stallings “Zoomed” into action. In Spring Training, Stallings gave a memorable experience for a group of youth from the Boys & Girls Club of Manatee County. When the Pirates were unable to host the annual Play Ball event this spring, Stallings hosted a virtual event for area youth players.

“He takes pride in what his voice is in the community and the things that he can get behind,” manager Derek Shelton said. “I think that’s what exemplifies not only him as a leader in our clubhouse, but in the community and for Pirates Charities.”

One of the few people Stallings got to meet in person this year was a local Miracle League legend, Caleb “The Crusher” Gallagher. The Miracle League removes the barriers to the sport so that players who are physically or mentally challenged can play ball, and leading Gallagher around PNC Park that day, Stallings saw the confidence in the young man’s game.

In fact, Stallings set up Gallagher to face Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, and “The Crusher” struck him out in a Major League tryout he’d always dreamed of.

“It was cool just to be able to interact with him,” Stallings said. “He signed a ball for me, and I've got it in my locker. We obviously haven't been able to do stuff like that the last two years, so to have him here was fun.”

Stallings remembers what a little kindness did for him as a kid. Growing up, his favorite team was the Cardinals, and as a catcher, his favorite player was current Royals manager Mike Matheny. Stallings’ dad’s friend was able to get the young backstop on the field before a couple of games, and there he met Matheny, who talked with him, took BP, then gave Stallings the bat he used.

“You never know how many games [kids] get to come to, so I try to interact with kids during games and make their experience that much more special,” Stallings said. “I always try to do that, in large part because Mike did that for me and who knows if I’m even here if he doesn’t do that. Simple gestures can go a long way.”

The nomination is just one part of a wave of announcements and events planned for a special week for the Pirates, especially on Wednesday. That is a date forever to be honored across MLB as Roberto Clemente Day, the league announced on Tuesday.

The Pirates will also hold two community service events: an upgrade effort at the Brashear High School baseball field, and a refreshing of the involveMINT Food Recycling Center in Hazelwood, Pa. After that, the Pirates will don the No. 21, as all Roberto Clemente Award nominees and past winners will have the option to do.

When Stallings thinks about what it means not only to wear that number on Wednesday, but to be associated with Clemente through his community service, it’s somewhat overwhelming.

“I think that's why I got emotional when Bob told me that they were nominating me,” Stallings said, “just because I'm certainly not a perfect person, so to even be mentioned in the same realm as him is pretty special, and certainly not something I take lightly.”