NEW YORK -- Brett Gardner considers himself blessed to put on a Major League uniform each day, having gone from a tiny South Carolina farming town to a college walk-on who eventually saw his name in lights at Yankee Stadium. He believes that it is important to share that good
NEW YORK -- Brett Gardner considers himself blessed to put on a Major League uniform each day, having gone from a tiny South Carolina farming town to a college walk-on who eventually saw his name in lights at Yankee Stadium. He believes that it is important to share that good fortune with others.
In recognition of that, Gardner has been selected as the Yankees' nominee for the 2016 Roberto Clemente Award, the most prominent individual player award issued by Major League Baseball.
• Vote on social media for Roberto Clemente Award
"I think it's important to never forget where you came from," Gardner said. "Where I grew up is kind of in the middle of nowhere, pretty much the complete opposite of here in New York City. I think in our communities back home in South Carolina and up here in New York, I think it's important to keep others in mind that are less fortunate than you."
The Roberto Clemente Award is the annual recognition of a player from each Major League club who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.
Fans can vote for the overall winner of the Roberto Clemente Award on social media for the first time by posting hashtags to Twitter (@MLB) and Facebook.com/MLB. Gardner's hashtag is #VoteGardy, and the deadline for fans to vote is Oct. 2.
Each club nominates one current player to be considered for the Roberto Clemente Award in tribute to Clemente's achievements and character. Wednesday marks the 15th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by Major League Baseball to honor Clemente's legacy and to officially acknowledge local club nominees of the Roberto Clemente Award.
Three Yankees have won the Clemente Award since its inception in 1971: Derek Jeter (2009), Don Baylor (1985) and Ron Guidry (1984). Gardner said he considers being nominated to be a great honor.
"I think anytime you hear the name Roberto Clemente, I don't just think about the career he had, but I think about what he was able to do to help people off the field and in the community and back home in Puerto Rico," Gardner said. "He was obviously not just a very special player."
A native of Holly Hill, S.C., who was drafted by the Yankees out of the College of Charleston, Gardner was a charter member of the Taylor Hooton Foundation's Advisory Board to educate youth about performance-enhancing drugs.
His extensive community outreach also includes involvement with the Ronald McDonald Houses both in South Carolina and New York, a home-away-from-home where families can stay near their hospitalized child.
Gardner and his wife, Jessica, seek to lift the spirits of those staying at the house, often providing lodging and holiday gifts to families living at the houses as well as purchasing a puppy, named "Gardy," as a therapy dog for the children.
"Something that's very special not only to myself but to my wife Jessica and our family is children; children in need," Gardner said.
Gardner has also supported the Salvation Army and their Angel Tree program, where Christmas gifts are provided to children in need. He regularly visits children at Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and Maria Fareri Children's Hospital at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y., and supports U.S. military members and their families.
"I just always remember that there's a lot of people out there who are a lot less fortunate than we are," Gardner said. "I'm very blessed not only to have a great job but to be able to live the life that we live. I think anytime you can make things easier, it's important to give back."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.