By Nelson Santana
October 9, 2018
Seattle Mariners outfielder Nelson Cruz has been nominated for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award and looks to become the fourth Dominican Major League Baseball player to capture the honor. Each Major League team selects a player for the nomination, with Cruz selected as the representative for the Seattle Mariners. He is also the only Dominican nominated this year. Most of the nominees have been active in their local communities or abroad, with initiatives that include fights against terminal illnesses, the eradication of poverty, promotion of education or improvement in the quality of life.
In September 2016 Nelson Cruz founded the Boomstick23 Foundation. As per its official website, Boomstick23 Foundation is
committed to generating social impact by empowering children and young people in situations of social vulnerability; developing skills and abilities through education and sports to improve the environment and their quality of life.
Cruz has been selected six times to the All-Star Game and since 2009 is the active player with the most home runs.
Like many of his fellow Dominican compatriots, Cruz is involved in many humanitarian initiatives. In 2012, he donated a truck to the firefighters of Las Matas de Santa Cruz. Cruz also serves as a spokesperson for AID FOR AIDS International and “Un Batazo Contra el VIH,” among other initiatives.
Due to his work, the humanitarian ballplayer is worthy of the prestigious Roberto Clemente prize.
Humanitarian Efforts a Staple Dominican Tradition
Nearly every Dominican baseball player who has made it to Major League Baseball understands the perils of growing up with little to no resources since they have experienced severe poverty firsthand. Dominican players such as Pedro Martínez, Manny Ramírez, and Álex Rodríguez have stood out for their humanitarian work inside and outside their respective communities. However, only three have been awarded the Roberto Clemente Award: Sammy Sosa (1998), Albert Pujols (2008), and David Ortíz (2011).
Sammy Sosa was recognized for his work in the city of Chicago and the Dominican Republic, especially in the midst of the tragedy of Hurricane Georges in September 1998. That same year he earned the Most Valuable Player Award in the National League after his historic home run campaign alongside Mark McGwire.
A decade later (2008) Albert Pujols—who won the second of three National League Most Valuable Player awards—was selected to the All-Star Game, won a Gold Glove for best defensive player and Silver Slugger for best offensive hitter as a first baseman. Additionally, Pujols was awarded the Roberto Clemente Award for the work he did through his non-profit organization, Pujols Family Foundation and also for the support he provided to other organizations and causes such as Boys & Girls Club of America and Ronald McDonald House.
Three years later David Ortíz was recognized for his work through his foundation. That same year, Ortíz reached several milestones. On April 2, he established the mark as the designated hitter with the most runs (1,004), surpassing the mark established by Edgar Martínez. On May 21, Ortiz became the fifth player to play for the Boston Red Sox to hit 300 home runs with the team.
In the case of these three Dominican ballplayers, they excelled on the field with their bats and also away from it via their humanitarian efforts.
Humanitarian Latin Americans
This year, a total of five Latin American players have been nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award. Including the three aforementioned Dominican sluggers, a total of seven players of Latin American descent have won the prize, being the Panamanian Rod Carew (1977) the first. Puerto Ricans Edgar Martínez (2004), Carlos Delgado (2006), and Carlos Beltrán (2013) have also been recipients of the award.
Originally founded in 1971 as the Commissioner’s Award, the award’s name was later changed in 1973 to honor the legacy of Puerto Rican legend Roberto Clemente. Clemente was immortalized in 1973 when he entered Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame. He died on December 31, 1972 while traveling to Nicaragua, a country that had recently been ravaged by an earthquake eight days earlier, on December 23. Due to his unselfishness and unrelenting humanitarian efforts, Major League Baseball rechristened the Commissioner’s Award with the name of Roberto Clemente.