Major League Baseball today announced that Nelson Cruz was named the Minnesota Twins nominee for the 2020 Roberto Clemente Award, the most prestigious individual award for Major Leaguers.
The Roberto Clemente Award is the annual recognition of a Major League player who best represents the game of Baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.
As part of the annual program, each MLB Club nominates one player to be considered for the league-wide Award in tribute to Clemente’s achievements and character. Wednesday, September 9 marks the 19th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by Major League Baseball to honor Clemente’s legacy as a humanitarian and to officially acknowledge local Club nominees of the Roberto Clemente Award. As part of the league-wide celebration, the Roberto Clemente Day logo will appear on the bases and official dugout lineup cards and a special tribute video will be played in ballparks. As the Twins are off on September 9, the club will honor Cruz prior to its Friday, September 11 home game against the Cleveland Indians at Target Field.
Cruz, the winner of the 2020 Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award, is now one of the 30 Club nominees for this year’s Roberto Clemente Award. While Cruz’ on-field accomplishments are well-documented – the six-time All-Star with 414 career home runs was the club MVP and a 2019 Louisville Slugger® Silver Slugger Award winner during his first Twins season, and he is a Triple Crown threat in 2020 – he takes the greatest pride in his off-field work. Nelson, who also received the 2019 Carl R. Pohlad Award for Twins Outstanding Community Service, has long worked to better lives in his native Dominican Republic, elsewhere in Latin America and in the communities in which he has played during his 15-year major league career.
Cruz’s efforts, which are focused on empowering people in situations of social vulnerability and using sports and education to help kids reach their potential to become leaders and improve their quality of life, include:
- Assisting his hometown of Las Matas De Santa Cruz by donating a fire engine and an ambulance to treat and transport people to the closest hospital, which is one hour away. He also built a new police station and donated a motorcycle for the city’s police officers, who previously had to walk.
- Annually bringing dentists, optometrists and other volunteer doctors, along with donated equipment and medicine, to his hometown clinic, providing checkups, medicine and eyewear.
- Purchasing wheelchairs, crutches, walkers and canes for elderly and disabled residents of his hometown.
- Leading his Boomstick 23 Foundation in establishing a new education and technical center to help the youth of Las Matas De Santa Cruz advance their employability by completing their high school education online, learning different trades such as carpentry/electrical, and how better to use farmland to produce crops.
- Assisting the Healing Venezuela initiative, which helps 2,000 Venezuelan newborns annually receive life-sustaining nourishment during their first year (a 400% increase since Cruz’s involvement).
- Raising funds through the Big League Impact ALL WIN campaign in 2019, impacting the Education Center in the Monte Cristi province, Dominican Republic.
- Engaging with Twin Cities area youth, including hosting a vitilla clinic with Twins RBI All-Stars in 2019.
- Providing food and financial support to nearly 1,200 Las Matas De Santa Cruz families during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing the resources necessary for them to comply with stay at home orders.
- Leading the delivery of a $400,000 donation from Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and the MLBPA Players Trust Returning Home program to the Dominican Republic, which provided medical equipment and helped to battle food insecurity in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
“Nelson Cruz is a consummate professional, an ideal teammate, a terrific baseball player and an even better person,” said Twins President & CEO Dave St. Peter. “For years, he has selflessly and tirelessly worked to help those most in need – people in his hometown, in his home country and in those major league communities that have been so fortunate as to have Nelson Cruz’s influence. We are beyond proud to have Nellie with us in Twins Territory, and we thank him and his Boomstick23 Foundation for their continued efforts.”
The league-wide winner of the Roberto Clemente Award will be selected via a blue ribbon panel, including Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr., representatives from MLB-affiliated networks (MLB Network, FOX Sports, ESPN and TBS), MLB.com, as well as Roberto’s children, Enrique, Luis and Roberto Clemente, Jr. Beginning today, 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, September 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.