Roberto Clemente Day Shines Light on Great One
Roberto Clemente legacy on display all over Major League Baseball
As Major League Baseball prepares to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s easy to see the greatness that lies within the Latino community in baseball. Look at the leaderboards on Roberto Clemente Day, and you’ll see the impact Latinos continue to have on the game.
You will see Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Dominican Republic threatening to get the Triple Crown. It would be the second time that has happened in the Divisional Era. The other player to do it was Miguel Cabrera of Venezuela.
Off the field, Roberto Clemente Day would make the late Puerto Rican icon proud too. Dominicano Albert Pujols exemplifies leadership in his contributions to his community through his foundation. He aims to raise awareness and meet the needs of children with Down syndrome.
Other examples include perennial All-Star catcher Yadier Molina. His foundation provides opportunities for underprivileged children in Puerto Rico and St. Louis.
This isn’t lost on Roberto Clemente’s family. His son Luis says it is fitting to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month on Sept. 15. That’s the day MLB has assigned for Roberto Clemente Day in perpetuity.
“All that Hispanics have done, not only to the game of baseball but also in society, I certainly feel that it needs to be celebrated and honored,” Luis Clemente said.
Players to Wear Roberto Clemente’s No. 21
To honor “The Great One,” for the second straight year all the Pittsburgh Pirates will wear No 21. Puerto Rican players and current nominees for the Roberto Clemente Award and previous Roberto Clemente Award winners will also have the option to wear the number. Previous winners include Adam Wainwright, Carlos Carrasco, Andrew McCutchen, Anthony Rizzo, Clayton Kershaw and more.
Luis Clemente is pleased to see that everyone in MLB will wear a No. “21” patch on Sept. 15.
Unlike many individual awards, the Roberto Clemente Award goes to a player who exhibits excellence on and off the field.
“Everyone who has received [the award] or at least has been nominated tells us how important it is for them and how significant it would be if they actually get to win it,” Luis Clemente said. “Because it is recognizing all the great efforts that they’re doing in their community.”
Sure, it’s not an award that rewards performance, which can be measured by statistics. It’s not going to decide a person’s Hall of Fame worthiness either.
However, it will highlight the humanity of a player, something that is immeasurable.
Honoring the late Vera Clemente
At an event in PNC Park held by the Roberto Clemente Foundation and the Pirates earlier this week, attendees couldn’t believe how active the foundation was. As Luis Clemente listed all of the activities and events the foundation has held, he couldn’t wait to talk about how he was going to honor his late mother Doña Vera Clemente.
“I always said, dad’s light is so bright, that it always overshadows mom’s accomplishments,” he said. “And this is a time to make her shine as well.”
To shine a light on her accomplishments, Clemente is opening a section within the Roberto Clemente exhibit in El Museo del Deporte in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. This section will be dedicated to what the Clemente Foundation accomplished under her watch.
She established the Ciudad Deportiva Roberto Clemente, a sports city located in Carolina, Puerto Rico. The idea was to reach young people through baseball. It was funded by grants and donations.
She also established a pediatric clinic in Nicaragua a few years after her husband died when his cargo plane with relief supplies crashed off the coast in San Juan.
The mission of the clinic is to provide affordable access to high-quality healthcare.
Beyond Vera Clemente’s philanthropic efforts, Luis Clemente is in awe of his mother. In fact, at times, he thought she was just too good to be true.
“We are matter. We take space,” he said. “And she would always be looking for ways to get out of the way in order for somebody else to have the space.”
As the proverb says, “behind every great man is a great woman.” There is no truer example of this than in Roberto and Vera Clemente.
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