Nelson Cruz named winner of 2021 Roberto Clemente Award

October 27th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL, MN – Major League Baseball today announced that former Minnesota Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz is the winner of the 2021 Roberto Clemente Award, baseball’s most prestigious individual honor for Major Leaguers. Cruz was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays on July 22, but remained 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. He will be recognized by Major League Baseball on the field tonight prior to Game 2 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park.

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. The winner was 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),, as well as Roberto’s children, Enrique, Luis and Roberto Clemente, Jr. Additionally, fans were able to vote online until the final day of the regular season, with the winner of the fan vote counting as one vote among those cast by the blue ribbon panel. 

Cruz was the Twins’ nominee for a second-straight year and is the fourth Minnesota nominee to win, joining Hall of Famers Rod Carew (1977), Dave Winfield (1994) and Kirby Puckett (1996). While Cruz’s time in Minnesota lasted just two-and-a-half of his 17 (and counting) major league seasons, his legacy in Minnesota and beyond has enduring impact, both on and off the field.

“There is no one more deserving of this tremendous honor than Nelson Cruz,” said club President & CEO Dave St. Peter. “His dedication to uplifting those around him is unmatched, and we are in awe of all he has accomplished on and off the field. From Twins Territory to the Dominican Republic, Nelson’s commitment to community continues to make significant impact across the globe.”

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, Cruz took the greatest pride in his off-the-field work. The 2020 Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award winner at the ESPYS and recipient of the peer-voted 2020 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, Cruz has long worked to make life better for underserved communities across the region, country and world.

Cruz’s efforts, which are focused on empowering people in situations of social and economic vulnerability, and using sports and education to help kids reach their potential and improve their quality of life, include:

  • Providing food and financial support to nearly 1,200 families in Las Matas De Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic 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, firefighter uniforms 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 to provide 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, fully equipped with computers, 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.

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.