New Year’s Eve is generally a day of celebration and hope. People gather with family and friends to remember the year with all its ups and downs, reflecting on what was and what might have been, and look forward to a new year filled hopes for what could be. But on December 31, 1972, the baseball world was rocked with the tragic news that one of their own, a man of great talent and even greater character, lost his life in a plane crash while on a mission to bring much needed supplies to earthquake survivors in Nicaragua.
Roberto Enrique Clemente Walker, known to the baseball world as Roberto Clemente, was born in Puerto Rico and drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. While not the first Hispanic to play major league ball, Clemente was the first to rack up so many achievements that eventually secured him a spot in the Hall of Fame. Over his 18 years with the Steel City’s Bucs, the outfielder excelled on the ball field, but even more importantly, he excelled at quietly helping others in need, including charity work at home in Puerto Rico.
After Clemente’s death, the MLB Commissioner’s Award was renamed The Roberto Clemente Award and is given to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement, and the individual’s contribution to his team”. Each year, every MLB team nominates a player they feel best represents these values. In honor of the winner, a vehicle and cash are donated to the winner’s chosen charity, with additional donations to the Roberto Clemente Sports City in Puerto Rico that provides local children sports opportunities to pursue their dreams.
This year, the New York Yankees have nominated Brett Gardner for the Roberto Clemente Award. Like Clemente, Gardner is a quiet man from humble roots, with strong character, and good values both on and off the field. Like Clemente, Gardner was raised on a farm, the son of a father who taught the value of character, respect, hard work, and persistence. Like Clemente, Gardner was taught to use the gifts God gave him to the best of his ability. Like Clemente, Gardner has stayed loyal to one team and is a positive influence on his teammates. Like Clemente, Gardner is an outfielder with a strong arm and an upbeat and “never quit” attitude, playing hard every game while supporting his teammates. Like Clemente, Gardner’s work ethic has helped him as he struggled to overcome injuries that might have kept less resilient players off the field. And like Clemente, Gardner is a family man with a generous heart and a compassion to reach out to his community and help those in need.
Brett Gardner and his family are actively involved in several community outreach organizations, including visiting children in hospitals and at the Ronald McDonald House (South Carolina and NYC), which is also home to a therapy dog, “Gardy”, donated by the Gardners for the children receiving hospital care. The Gardner family is also involved with the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program providing Christmas gifts to children in need and also assist in helping the Taylor Hooton Foundation’s Advisory Board to educate youth about performance-enhancing drugs. This compassionate and generous spirit exemplifies Roberto Clemente’s mission to help others wherever and whenever possible.
We are proud of the Yankees for choosing Brett Gardner and believe his life choices honor the example and memory of Roberto Clemente.
Vote for Gardy! #VoteGardy