MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL, MN – Major League Baseball today announced that former Minnesota Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz was named the club’s nominee for the 2021 Roberto Clemente Award, baseball’s most prestigious individual honor for Major Leaguers. Although he was acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays on July 22, Cruz remains the Twins’ nominee in recognition of his tremendous impact on the organization and Upper Midwest region in 2021 and throughout his two-and-a-half seasons in Minnesota.
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 15 – the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month – marks the 20th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by Major League Baseball to honor Clemente’s legacy as a humanitarian. As part of the league-wide celebration, the Roberto Clemente Day logo will appear on the bases and official dugout lineup cards, a special tribute video will be played in ballparks, and all players and on-field personnel will wear a “21” patch on their uniform sleeves.
Cruz, the winner of the 2020 Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award at the ESPYS, is now one of the 30 Club nominees for this year’s Roberto Clemente Award and the Twins’ selection for a second-straight year. And, while the record books will show Nelson’s time in Minnesota as just two-and-a-half of his 17 (and counting) major league seasons, his legacy in Twins Territory will have enduring impact.
On the field, Cruz led the Twins to consecutive American League Central Division titles (2019-20); was twice voted the team’s MVP; won back-to-back Louisville Slugger® Silver Slugger Awards (2019-20); hit 76 home runs (including the 400th of his career) and collected 191 RBI in 258 games; and was named to the 2021 A.L. All-Star Team. However, like he has throughout his career, Nelson took his greatest pride in his off-the-field work. The 2020 Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award winner and recipient of the peer-voted 2020 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, Cruz has long worked to make life better for countless people across the region, country and world.
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:
- Providing food and financial support to nearly 1,200 Las Matas De Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic 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.
- 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 Boomstick23 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.
“It’s hard to describe the monumental impact that Nelson Cruz had – and still has – on the Minnesota Twins organization,” said club President & CEO Dave St. Peter. “His leadership, professionalism and elite play made us better on the field, while his work in the community has improved the lives of innumerable people. We are in awe of all Nellie accomplished during his time in Minnesota, and truly grateful for his efforts. Nelson Cruz will always have a special place in Twins Territory.”
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 (English) and LasMayores.com/clemente21 (Spanish). The site will feature bios of each of the nominees and will allow fans to vote until the end of the season on Sunday, October 3rd. 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.