KANSAS CITY -- Designated hitter Billy Butler was named the Royals' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes players who best represent the game of baseball on and off the field.
"It just shows you that your off-field work as well as your on-field work is being noticed. I take a lot of pride in it," Butler said. "My wife and I, having two girls like I have at home, want to show them that it's the right thing to do. I've been given a great opportunity and been blessed with a lot of things that other people aren't, and I want to take advantage of it. I just want to set the right example."
In 2008, Butler and his wife Katie created the Hit-It-A-Ton program, which benefits the Bishop Sullivan Center that provides emergency assistance in Kansas City. Through Hit-It-A-Ton, Butler donates money for each double and home run he hits.
In six plus years, the program has raised more than $380,000 or 1,441 tons of food for needy persons in the community. This season the Butlers also created Billy's Hit-It-A-Ton BBQ sauce through a partnership with Zarda BBQ in Kansas City. The sauce is available at grocery stores and retail outlets in the area, and proceeds go to the Bishop soup kitchen.
"It started as something small in 2008 and it's getting bigger every year into something you don't even imagine it being," Butler said. "We were just doing a good deed and trying to do something good for the community, and it's turned into something way bigger."
As the Royals' honoree, Butler will receive an award on Tuesday night and a donation, which he has allocated to the Bishop Sullivan Center.
All 30 nominees have immersed themselves in the type of humanitarian and community efforts that distinguished the life of Clemente, a life that ended at age 38 on New Year's Eve 1972, when the plane he was using to deliver aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims crashed.
Tuesday is Roberto Clemente Day throughout Major League Baseball, a day instituted to keep alive Clemente's spirit of giving. Voting runs from Tuesday through Oct. 6 at chevybaseball.com as fans help decide which of those 30 club winners will receive this prestigious recognition.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com.