ATLANTA -- Ian Desmond may be out of sight, having decided not to play for the Rockies for a second straight season, but his impact is felt to the point that the club has nominated him for the Roberto Clemente Award for the fifth straight year.
Desmond announced last year in an Instagram post that the pandemic, racial injustice and the need to be home for his children and rebuild baseball in his home area, the Newtown community of Sarasota, Fla., led him to take the season off. He reinforced his commitment by announcing on the eve of Spring Training this year that he would not play, but would intensify his efforts through Newtown Connection, a free and holistic baseball, education and health program.
Desmond enlisted the assistance of a friend, businessman Vincent Northfield, to make sure he was conducting a proper and effective non-profit. The effort has brought baseball and softball to about 100 children who may not have been able to afford it, and it has improved their equipment, facilities and opportunities.
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.
Fans can vote for the Roberto Clemente Award online, 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.
Earlier in his career with the Nationals, Desmond offered his time and efforts to the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, so he entered with ideas in the area of community involvement.
“I would say there's no better representative than ‘Desi’ for this award,” manager Bud Black said. “Talking with Desi over the last couple years, and even more specifically late last year and what he's doing down there in his hometown, his home area, it’s pretty special.
“Over the years in Washington, D.C., and also in Denver, he was very generous with both his money and his time giving back to both communities. And now he’s diving in headfirst into his hometown, where he grew up, where he was raised, where he learned the game of baseball, and to give back. It's awesome. I love it. Desi is having a blast with this.
“It's something that he's passionate about. He's learned a lot -- from what he told me -- about business, leadership, organization, people coming together.”