VOTE: Roberto Clemente Award nominees

September 14th, 2021

All 30 nominees for the 2021 Roberto Clemente Award -- one per club, including 18 first-timers -- were announced by Major League Baseball on Tuesday. Considered baseball's most prestigious individual honor for Major Leaguers, the Clemente Award annually recognizes the MLB player who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.

Beginning today, fans can vote for the Roberto Clemente Award via (English) and (Spanish), through the end of the regular season on Oct. 3. The winner of the fan vote will count as one vote among those cast by a blue ribbon panel that will select the league-wide winner of the award.

MLB also announced that Sept. 15, the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, will be celebrated as Roberto Clemente Day in perpetuity. On that day, the Pirates, the club for which Clemente played his entire Hall of Fame career, will once again have all players, managers and coaches wear Roberto’s “21” on their uniforms. Additionally, for the first time, all Roberto Clemente Award nominees and previous award recipients will have the option to wear “21” on their uniforms, joining players from Puerto Rico and others who wore the number during the 2020 commemoration of Roberto Clemente Day.

Below is each club's nominee for the 2021 Roberto Clemente Award.

American League East

Blue Jays:
Bichette earned his first-ever nomination for the Roberto Clemente Award for work that he’s done both in Toronto and back home in the St. Petersburg, Fla., area. The All-Star shortstop has worked with Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, particularly their Environmental Services team. Back in Florida, Bichette has stayed involved with Lakewood High School, which he attended prior to the Blue Jays selecting him in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft. Along with his work with PG Cares, the charitable arm of Perfect Game, Bichette is involved with TASCO (Teen Arts, Sports and Cultural Opportunities), a part of St. Petersburg Parks & Recreation that promotes sportsmanship and positive learning experiences. -- Keegan Matheson

Since the day he was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in March 2020, Trey Mancini strove to be an advocate for those dealing with the disease and survivors. To that end, Mancini partnered with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance and began his own foundation within the past year, with an eye toward making an impact in both the cancer and Baltimore communities. Mancini and the Orioles helped CCA raise $80,000 last summer, and Mancini often stresses the importance of early-onset screening when discussing his own personal ordeal. One of his foundation’s first moves was to partner with Blessings in a Backpack, the food insecurity nonprofit also partnered with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. The work continued as Mancini enjoyed a triumphant return season in 2021, highlighted by his inspiring Home Run Derby performance during All-Star weekend. He plans to advocate for colon cancer survivors and the city of Baltimore for years to come. -- Joe Trezza

Yarbrough and his wife, Nicole, found ways to serve the Tampa Bay community and stay engaged with Rays fans throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the Yarbroughs donated a collection of school supplies, hygiene products and uniforms to Campbell Park Elementary and partnered with Buddy Brew Coffee in Tampa to deliver coffee and pastries to the St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital critical care unit early on in the pandemic. Yarbrough also became the top reader in the popular “Reading with the Rays” program, even as it went virtual last year, by recording himself reading three different children’s books for videos shared on a variety of digital platforms. After the Rays’ run to the World Series, the left-hander held a 12-day holiday giveaway on Instagram, offering prizes (like signed baseballs) to those who submitted the top response to the day’s question. Yarbrough came up with the idea while thinking of ways to engage with fans after a season without them in the stands. As a Tampa resident who grew up (as a Rays fan) in Lakeland, Fla., Yarbrough said he and Nicole “take a lot of pride in helping out any way possible and using the platform we have to do that.” -- Adam Berry

Red Sox:
The hard-throwing righty is one of the most involved Red Sox players when it comes to interacting with patients of the cancer-fighting Jimmy Fund. In fact, Eovaldi was named the Red Sox Jimmy Fund Captain for 2021. Eovaldi has recorded many messages and PSA’s for the clinic to help them raise much-needed funds. He made a monetary donation to the annual Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon later in August. Eovaldi has also taken part in many other charitable endeavors, including the “Home Plate Project” with Big League Impact and the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Eovaldi has continually recorded video messages for children, doctors and nurses, among others. Given the restrictions on in-person visits, Eovaldi has often taken it upon himself to make virtual appearances via Zoom. -- Ian Browne

Higashioka credits his rise to the big leagues in part to the efforts of the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., of which he is a proud alumnus. Growing up in Huntington Beach, Calif., Higashioka was one of the first youth athletes to compete at the academy, which opened in 2006. He has since helped support the program in various ways, volunteering his time in the offseason, hosting online auctions to raise money and positively expanding its social reach.

In addition to his work with inner-city youth, Higashioka is also a devoted supporter of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering the families of fallen and severely wounded special operations warriors and children of all Medal of Honor recipients. Higashioka held a special online fundraiser this past June that featured a raffle of his game-used commemorative Memorial Day baseball equipment to support SOWF’s efforts. The initiative produced a total donation of more than $10,000 and helped provide positive and continuing social media support and recognition. -- Bryan Hoch

American League Central

Civale has been as active in the Cleveland community as anyone over the last year. He and his fiancée Fran Barilla created their Pearls for Perseverance (a play on the acronym "PFP," referring to pitchers’ fielding practice) charity to help bring smiles and positivity to pediatric cancer patients at the Cleveland Clinic. Through his program, Civale signs his warmup baseballs prior to each start and ships them to a friend in need at the Clinic. He’s also made an effort to Zoom with as many of the patients as he can after they receive their gift. Outside of his own charity, Civale is also one of the first players on the Indians' roster to jump at the opportunity to meet sick patients or others in need who are brought out to visit Progressive Field nearly every week by the team. This marks Civale’s first Roberto Clemente Award nomination. -- Mandy Bell

This is the first year Perez has been nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award, and the honor comes because of the veteran catcher’s work with Teach for America over the last several years, as well as extensive community involvement over the past year. With Teach for America, Perez volunteered to participate as a “Shark” at the group’s Shark Tank: Teacher Edition event in Kansas City in 2016. Since then, he’s hosted teachers at Kauffman Stadium during Royals games and has made monetary donations to the nonprofit through Royals Charities. He also donated 400 sets of toy bats and balls for the Back to School Bash. Perez has also coached clinics for kids, and during the pandemic, he filmed surprise messages for Royals fans and supported essential workers at local grocery stores. He is a member of “Sarah’s Soldiers,” a group that supports local police officer Sarah Olsen through her battle with ALS, and he has partnered with Braden’s Hope for Childhood Cancer. -- Anne Rogers

Cabrera has been an annual nominee for the Tigers, given his generosity both in Detroit and his offseason hometown of Miami. Cabrera volunteered in April to serve as co-chair of the Protect Michigan Commission to promote the state's COVID-19 vaccination and education efforts, including public service announcements in English and Spanish.

“I think when you have the vaccine, it’s very helpful for you,” Cabrera said at the time. "I think, in my opinion, everybody has to have the vaccine to get better and get all this behind us and be normal again.” -- Jason Beck

Though Cruz is no longer with the Twins following his July 22 trade to the Rays, he’ll serve as the Twins’ nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award for the second straight year as a testament to how much he meant to the organization in his two-plus seasons there. Cruz’s humanitarian contributions have already been well-recognized through his receipt of the 2020 Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award as part of the ESPYs and the 2020 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award as voted on by his peers. These awards came largely in recognition of the help he’s given his hometown of Las Matas de Santa Cruz in the Dominican Republic, where he provided food and financial support to nearly 1,200 families during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also led the charge for a $400,000 donation to the Dominican Republic for the pandemic from MLB and the MLB Players’ Association. His work in his community and with his foundation has provided medical and emergency services to his hometown throughout his career. -- Do-Hyoung Park

White Sox:
Liam Hendriks and his wife, Kristi, did not wait long to give back to Chicago after the closer agreed to a free-agent deal with the White Sox this past January. In fact, it was immediate support for frontline workers, underserved community groups and those individuals and businesses most heavily impacted by the ongoing public health crisis.

Hendriks created the South Slydah Society upon arriving in Chicago, donating nearly 1,000 meals from more than a dozen local, minority and family-owned small businesses to frontline workers across Chicago. The recipients included three platoons at Engine 29 Firehouse, healthcare workers at Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, volunteers at St. James Food Pantry, the local post office and staff from One Tail at a Time Chicago.

Liam and Kristi made donations approximately twice per month since their arrival. The Australian native also continued his long-standing support of the LGBTQ+ community, providing lunch and White Sox-branded gifts to staff at Center on Halsted, the Midwest’s most comprehensive community center dedicated to the health and wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ community, and Howard Brown Health, one of the nation’s largest organizations committed to eliminating the disparities in healthcare experienced by this community. The closer has been an important on-field component to the American League Central leaders and has done the same off the field. -- Scott Merkin

American League West

Angels superstar Mike Trout has missed most of the season with a strained left calf but received a prestigious honor by being named the team's nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for the second straight year. Trout and his wife, Jessica, have made suicide awareness and mental health one of their main causes after the death by suicide of Jessica's brother, former Angels Minor Leaguer Aaron Cox, in 2018. They partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the apparel company Tiny Turnip to create an initiative called "Your Game Isn't Over Yet ;", with the semicolon representing the symbol for suicide prevention. Trout also gives back to his local community in Millville, N.J., and helped support hospital workers and grocery store employees during the pandemic. -- Rhett Bollinger

In February, Bregman testified before the Texas Senate’s finance committee via Zoom, advocating for a fair rate for applied behavior analysis therapy for families on Medicaid. ABA therapy reduces behaviors that are harmful or affect learning for children with autism. Bregman is hoping to open a free assessment center for parents to take their children to get the ADOS test to help with quicker diagnosis, as well as open a sensory room at Minute Maid Park, which will allow families who have children with autism and other disabilities to have a safe place to go during games. Bregman and his wife, Reagan, in conjunction with the Astros Foundation and Brothers Produce, organized a water drive in February following the devastating freeze that hit Houston. Bregman, through his Bregman Cares charity, donated nearly 30,000 bottles of water. Earlier in February, Bregman passed out refurbished computers and new printers to families in need with young students at Gallery Furniture. -- Brian McTaggart

Tony Kemp continues his involvement with the “+1 Effect,” an initiative that was spurred by his frustrations with the events that unfolded in the summer of 2020 following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. This year, Kemp continued his partnership with breakingT to create several color ways of his “+1 Effect” t-shirts, with proceeds going to the Players Alliance with a focus on diversity in baseball. He also partnered with FOCO Bobbles to create a “+1 Effect” limited edition bobblehead. On April 15 -- Jackie Robinson Day -- Kemp was among the more than 100 players who donated their gameday salary to support the Players Alliance in an effort to increase opportunities for the Black community in every aspect of baseball. -- Martín Gallegos

Regardless of what on-field impact Seager leaves on Seattle in this, his potentially final season with the Mariners, one certain is that the imprint he’s left off the field is one that has not only stuck, but resonated. For the seventh year, Seager teamed with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 2021, serving as a spokesperson for the Refuse To Abuse campaign. He also supports the annual Refuse To Abuse 5K that raises funds and celebrates the resilience of DV survivors and the power of community.

The 2021 Refuse To Abuse 5K, held both virtually and in-person at T-Mobile Park, raised more than $113,000. But Seager, the father of three, has also supported the Seattle-area youth, specifically those with critical illnesses, including countless visits to children’s hospitals, most notably the Seattle Children’s Hospital and the Seattle Children’s Heart Center. He also leads fundraising campaigns for pediatric cancer research and family support programs.

The 34-year-old veteran has also helped grant multiple wishes and entertain kids from the Make-A-Wish Foundation with visits to the ballpark. In 2020, he also helped the MAW Washington chapter transition their annual WO: Wonder of Wishes in-person fundraising luncheon into an all-new virtual event, which raised more than $169,000 to help support children waiting for wishes due to delays impacted by the pandemic. In 2016, Seager teamed up with the Vs Cancer Foundation, the nonprofit devoted to saving lives of children by funding international cancer research projects, to create the Kyle Seager Vs Cancer campaign, which raised more than $23,000 for Seattle Children’s and Strong Against Cancer. Seager also supports charities such as the American Heart Association, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Clubs, and Mariners Care, the Seattle Mariners nonprofit foundation. -- Daniel Kramer

The Rangers catcher has made community involvement a key part of his Rangers tenure by donating time and money to both the DFW area and his hometown of Corpus Cristi, Texas. He’s spearheaded multiple community events, including raising more than$30,000 for the 4th Annual Trevino’s Toy Drive during the holiday season in 2020 and the Hip Hip Jose tee. The shirt is a collaboration with the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, to which a portion of all sales will be donated. -- Kennedi Landry

National League East

Smith receives the Braves' nomination in recognition for the many selfless efforts he made to aid his hometown of Newton, Ga., after a tornado wrecked portions of the suburban Atlanta city in March. The veteran reliever helped raise money to rebuild the Newton High School baseball field and locker room, which were both deemed unusable after the storm. His efforts to led to a $38,000 donation to the Coweta Community Foundation and Backpack Buddies of Georgia. These grants have provided ongoing funding for hotel accommodations and long-term housing solutions for dislocated disaster victims, youth programs for children affected by the tornado, food and family support programs, and more. Smith has also been involved with working at local animal shelters and helping with homeless pet adoptions. -- Mark Bowman

This marks the second consecutive year Rojas is the club's nominee. He also is Miami's Heart and Hustle Award recipient. Rojas pitches in at the organization's community service events, from food drives to school visits. The Marlins' unofficial captain has earned praise from the Captain himself, Hall of Famer and CEO Derek Jeter.

"I think he's done a great job on the field -- goes without saying -- but I think the way he's been a leader in the clubhouse, not only here at the Major League level, but [with] the Minor League guys coming up throughout the system. I think they look up to him," said Jeter. -- Christina De Nicola

Since highlighting his record-setting rookie season by donating a portion of his 2019 Home Run Derby winnings to multiple nonprofit organizations, Alonso has worked to remain one of the Mets’ most active philanthropists. He and his fiancée, Haley Walsh, founded their Homers for Heroes foundation in 2020 to support the “everyday heroes” of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a program that saw them honor 60 heroes in 60 days last summer. Alonso has also been active in supporting military and Sept. 11, 2001-related charities, going as far as to design custom cleats that he later donated to the 9/11 Memorial Museum in Lower Manhattan. This is Alonso’s first Roberto Clemente Award nomination. -- Anthony DiComo

Max Scherzer left a lasting impact in the DMV community over his six-plus seasons with the Nationals, even after he was traded to the Dodgers. As a way to thank Nats fans for their support, Scherzer and his wife, Erica, sponsored the adoption fees for every animal at the Humane Rescue Alliance (including cats, dogs, turtles, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds and mice) for seven days in early August. The following week, the Washington Nationals Philanthropies announced the Scherzers are contributing financial support to the development of the fourth Legacy Field, a multi-use education and recreation complex named for a current or former Nats player. They also donated an additional $100,000 to start a fundraising challenge.

“Kids should have access to not only a great education, but also the chance to play as many sports as possible,” Max Scherzer said this summer.

The Scherzers are the Nationals Philanthropies’ largest individual donors (cash basis) since 2015. -- Jessica Camerato

Bohm started The Alec Bohm Foundation before his big league debut in 2020. Launched in 2019 with a mission to inspire philanthropy and giving to others, it has a simple focus: offer help to those who need it. During the COVID-19 shutdown, Bohm and his family reached out to the pastors at Heritage Church, their local church in Omaha, Neb., to offer help where needed. They began fundraising for a renovation project that included installing new church chairs, carpeting and tile, which supported their local community. The improvements allowed the pastors to additionally direct attention to various communities in Africa. Some of those efforts included supplying blankets and other necessities to orphaned children in Kampala, Uganda; helping with repairs to Unceasing Brooks Church in Nairobi, Kenya; and digging a well to supply clean drinking water at a children’s center in Bwindi, Uganda. The village did not have electricity, so the project was expanded to add a diesel generator and storage tank to pump water. Bohm also donates his time to Phillies Charities and more. -- Todd Zolecki

National League Central

As a Harvard graduate who studied environmental science, Suter uses his platform to draw attention to various environmental issues, the effects of climate change, the global crisis of plastic waste and emphasizes positive change. Suter has served as an active member and ambassador for ‘Players for the Planet’ since 2019, participating in cleanup projects around the world and making a series of appearances on behalf of Major League Baseball on Earth Day. He further supports multiple environmental groups such as Milwaukee Urban Ecology, the Outrider Foundation, ECO in the City of Milwaukee and EcoAthletes. Most recently, the Brewers, SC Johnson and ‘Players for the Planet’ teamed up to host an exclusive program for faculty and collegiate students from UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee concentrating on environmental and sustainable studies. Brent served as a lead panelist speaking about his involvement with environmental groups, the importance of sustainable practices and how he’s inspiring others to join in these vital efforts. -- Adam McCalvy

This is the sixth time Goldschmidt has been nominated for the Roberto Clemente award and his first time since joining St. Louis, looking to join Adam Wainwright (2020 winner) and Yadier Molina (‘18) among current Cards to have received the honor. Like each of Goldschmidt’s prior nominations, this one is for a potpourri of charitable causes, including several that he’s been able to take off with now that he's fully entrenched in the St. Louis market. Chief among them is his commitment to pediatric cancer patients, with Goldschmidt and his wife, Amy, being dedicated supporters of the Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children. They have continued such efforts with visits to children in St. Louis hospitals and work with the Make-A-Wish foundation. (The Goldschmidts used to visit Phoenix Children’s Hospital so frequently that they received a permanent visitor’s pass.) Last year, Goldschmidt made a donation to Convoy of Hope, a faith-based nonprofit organization that provided a full tractor-trailer of food and supplies to the St. Louis community. He has also been very involved in Wainwright’s nonprofit, Big League Impact, which connects Major Leaguers with charitable causes around the world, as well as Goldy’s Golden Ticket program, which has brought nearly 100 deserving children to Cardinals games so far in 2021. -- Zachary Silver

For Heyward, Chicago is not just where he plays baseball. The veteran outfielder has embraced the city as his home and has continually searched for ways to give back. In August, that included being present for the groundbreaking ceremony on a 10-acre, 150,000-plus-square-foot facility in the city's Austin neighborhood that will include a club for kids and professional-level sports elements, including the Jason Heyward Baseball Academy.

"I hope to raise kids in this community one day," Heyward said at the event in August. "And I want them to see that kind of legacy. Yes, I have played baseball. I was on a team that won the World Series. ... But my wife and I take a lot of pride in giving back to the community, helping people out."

Heyward has partnered with the By the Hand Club for Kids in Chicago on projects such as that Austin complex, as well as providing funding (along with other pro athletes) to help the Austin Harvest market come to fruition in the same region.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Heyward also contributed to several nonprofit organizations to assist with food and other resources. The outfielder has donated to MASK (Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings), the Greater Chicago Food Depository and the University of Chicago Medical Center, among others. He also is an active member of the Players Alliance, with whom he has participated in several Chicago-based events. -- Jordan Bastian

Stallings kept his strong community engagement going during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Spring Training, he gave a memorable experience for a group of youth from the Boys and 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.  Stallings also helped welcome a Miracle League player, “Caleb the Crusher,” to PNC Park, spending time talking with him, catching him and showing him around. On top of his charity work, Stallings has been consistently lauded by the Pirates’ young pitching staff for his dedication to the game and his willingness to help them grow.

“Jacob embodies the spirit of The Great One in the way he carries himself and how he represents our organization on and off the field,” Pirates owner Bob Nutting said in a statement. “The Roberto Clemente Award is very special to the Pirates, and we are incredibly proud of Jacob and all of the 2021 nominees.” -- Jake Crouse

The longest-tenured member of the Reds (since 2007), Votto often helps the community in quieter ways and without fanfare -- especially to help hospitalized children and those battling with great health challenges. During the pandemic, when in-person visits to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital weren’t possible, Votto met virtually with patients and sent recorded videos to kids before their surgeries.

Votto, 38, often made regular visits to the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy -- even after his own games -- to spend time with the players from the RBI Baseball and Softball teams -- including the RBI Senior team that won the 2021 RBI World Series. While he was on the injured list with a fractured left thumb in May, he spent time working with and advising the 13U team.

While at Great American Ball Park, Votto has often spent extended time with Make-A-Wish visitors and has donated ballpark suites for use by Make-A-Wish and RBI. He has also offered longtime financial support to the Cincinnati Freestore Foodbank.-- Mark Sheldon

National League West

As the D-backs' longest-tenured active-roster player and a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger recipient, Peralta and his wife, Jordan, are united in their involvement with a number of causes, including supporting children battling cancer at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, finding hunger solutions through St. Mary’s Food Bank, supporting families affected by cancer through The Singletons, inspiring children to play ball through local Boys & Girls Clubs and embracing the gift of education through his endless appearances in the Arizona community. In 2020, David and Jordan supported the construction of David Peralta Field in Wickenburg, Ariz. David Peralta Field marks the 43rd field in the Diamondbacks Field Building program. Most recently, the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation teamed up with Peralta to publish Freight Train Saves the Day -- an adorable storybook about the power of kindness shaped by the Freight Train himself. Additionally, in 2021, David teamed up with the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation and Phoenix Children’s to purchase a telemedicine robot named HOPE. HOPE the Robot has allowed David and his teammates to visit with children at Phoenix Children’s via two-way robot and IPad technology. -- Steve Gilbert

Turner and his wife, Kourtney, launched the Justin Turner Foundation back in 2016 and have done tremendous work in the community ever since. The JTF supports homeless veterans, children battling life-altering illnesses and diseases and youth baseball organizations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Turners worked with the Dream Center assisting local restaurants while also serving about 12,000 people per day through a drive-thru distribution. Due to his work in the community, Turner was rewarded with a day named after him on Jan. 22, 2019. Turner was also the Dodgers’ nominee in the 2020 season. -- Juan Toribio

A four-time MLBPAA Giants Heart & Hustle Award winner, Crawford is involved in several charitable organizations, including Guide Dogs for the Blind, Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation, Take Me Out to the Ballgame Ticket Donation Program and the Giants Community Fund. The Giants’ All-Star shortstop also hosted the fifth annual Crawford Family Charity Golf Tournament in August to raise money for the ALS CURE Project and supported the Giants Community Fund’s efforts to renovate Gilman Playground Field in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood in July.

"My wife, Jalynne and I are so happy that we're able to help give back to the community in this way with this field in hopes that it'll bring young people together here and give them an opportunity to learn life lessons that will help them chase their dreams and achieve them like I did," Crawford said at the time. -- Maria Guardado

Musgrove’s return to San Diego offered him a chance to give back to the community that helped raise him into the pitcher and person he is now. He did so on the field, authoring the first no-hitter in Padres history in April. And he did so off the field, taking home the Roberto Clemente Award nomination -- an honor that means a great deal to Musgrove, considering his ties to the Pittsburgh community as well. Musgrove has partnered with the Challenged Athletes Foundation and has since developed a bond with Landis Sims, an avid baseball fan who was born without any arms or legs. In July, Sims signed an honorary contract with the Padres and played catch with Musgrove on the field. Last offseason, Musgrove also partnered with Be The Match, a global leader in bone marrow transplantation that also connects patients with donors and helped raise money by auctioning signed custom cleats. -- AJ Cassavell

Desmond has not played a game for the Rockies the last two years. Nonetheless, he became the team's nominee for the fourth and fifth straight years. When announcing he would not play last year, Desmond said that for many reasons he felt a calling to rebuild the youth baseball program in his hometown of Sarasota, Fla. Desmond forfeited millions in baseball salary and threw himself into Newtown Connection, a free and holistic baseball, education and health program. Desmond called upon his friend, business mogul Vincent Northfield, to teach him how to run an effective nonprofit.

And the professional baseball world might not have seen the last of Desmond. The cover story of the July/August issue of Onyx Magazine, "the premier magazine for Black achievement throughout Florida," reported that Desmond "says he is stronger both physically and mentally," although his contract ends this year. However, the magazine also quoted Desmond as saying, "I know these 100 kids need me more than my teammates. This is about the Newtown Connection and my opportunity to pass the game and life lessons on to the next generation. I had a little girl tell me the other day she signed up for softball. That fills the void of a kid asking me for an autograph before the game or throwing a ball or a broken bat to a kid. That was just as fulfilling as hitting a home run." -- Thomas Harding