HOUSTON -- Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs has been named the recipient of the 2017 Roberto Clemente Award, the most prestigious individual player award from Major League Baseball. Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. officially announced Rizzo's selection at a press conference prior to Game Three of the 113th
HOUSTON -- Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs has been named the recipient of the 2017 Roberto Clemente Award, the most prestigious individual player award from Major League Baseball. Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. officially announced Rizzo's selection at a press conference prior to Game Three of the 113th World Series. Rizzo is the third Cubs player to win the Roberto Clemente Award, joining Rick Sutcliffe (1987) and Sammy Sosa (1998).
Rizzo has been a champion for pediatric cancer patients and their families, especially following his own experience as a survivor of Hodgkin's lymphoma. Soon after he established himself as a fixture in the Cubs lineup, Rizzo and his family created the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation (ARFF) to support children and families battling the disease and fund cancer research. Through ARFF, the "Hope 44 Fund" was launched to connect social workers and families affected by cancer in their journey against the disease. Hope 44 also provides financial assistance to families to offset medical costs so no family ever has to choose between paying a bill and saving their child's life. In 2017 alone, ARFF committed more than $4 million to establish the Hope 44 program at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago as well at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami (UM) Health System. Hope 44 now operates at several locations, in addition to Lurie's and UM, including Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Fla. In addition, ARFF also donated more than $350,000 directly to families battling cancer.
Rizzo and ARFF also host annual fundraising events in his home state of Florida and in Chicago, which have raised more than $4 million for organizations and facilities supporting children with cancer and their families. Rizzo makes monthly visits to Lurie Children's Hospital during the Regular Season, and has developed friendships with those on the pediatric oncology floor. Lastly, Rizzo supports two summer camps in partnership with Gilda's Club that offer children battling cancer the opportunity to engage in fun activities around Chicago.
"Anthony and his Foundation have had a positive impact on a cause that is all too familiar to our society," said Commissioner Manfred. "Anthony's status as one of Baseball's young stars combined with his own inspiring fight against cancer has given children and their families the hope and support they need. Major League Baseball is proud to present this prestigious honor to Anthony, who is a great representative of our game and the humanitarian legacy of Roberto Clemente."
Rizzo said: "Mr. Clemente was a true hero who dedicated his time to helping others. He set the bar high for what an athlete should be both on and off the field. To be named the Roberto Clemente Award recipient is truly an honor and means more to me and my family than I could ever express. As a cancer survivor, I know the challenges families face, watching loved ones fight this disease. I want to give them hope there is life after cancer. I encourage families to continue to 'Stay Strong and Dream Big.'"
The Roberto Clemente Award is the annual recognition of a Major League player from each MLB Club who best represents the game of Baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field. The concept of honoring Major League players for their philanthropic work was created in 1971 as the "Commissioner's Award," but was renamed 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. Each September since 2002, Major League Baseball has commemorated Roberto Clemente Day.
Vera Clemente said: "I am honored to welcome Anthony to the family of Roberto Clemente Award winners. As a cancer survivor, his story is powerful and his efforts with children and families in his home communities of Chicago and South Florida help spread positivity and inspiration to those who need it most. Roberto loved putting smiles on the faces of every child he met, and what Anthony continues to do is very much in that same spirit."
Rizzo was selected from a list of 30 Club nominees by a distinguished panel that included Commissioner Manfred; Vera Clemente; Hall of Fame Broadcaster and the "Spanish-Language Voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers" Jaime Jarrín; MLB Network analysts and former Roberto Clemente Award winners Al Leiter, Harold Reynolds and John Smoltz (also of FOX Sports); ESPN analysts Jessica Mendoza and Mark Teixeira; FOX Sports Broadcasters Kevin Burkhardt and Dontrelle Willis; TBS analysts Ron Darling and Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez (both also of MLB Network); MLB.com Executive Editor Carlton Thompson; MLB.com Reporter Jesse Sanchez; Baseball Writers' Association of America President Patrick Saunders; and others. Additionally, Rizzo won the fan vote, which was available via MLB.com/Clemente21.
Rizzo joins a distinguished list of national Roberto Clemente Award recipients, which includes 16 members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Read the full list here.