SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield knew all about Roberto Clemente’s legacy coming up in the Pittsburgh organization. Wakefield vowed to be an example of Clemente’s commitment to giving back.
Wakefield received the 2010 Roberto Clemente Award on Thursday night, given annually to a major league player who gives back through community service and also excels on the field.
Wakefield was presented the award by commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, Roberto’s widow, before Game 2 of the World Series at AT&T Park between the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants.
“He deserved this award a long time ago,” Mrs. Clemente said.
Since 2004, Wakefield has been actively involved with the nonprofit “Pitching in for Kids,” which provides grants to improve the lives of children across the New England region and encourages kids to participate in special events to learn important life skills and the spirit of helping others in a community. Fundraisers co-hosted by Wakefield have helped raise nearly $1 million.
“This award ultimately is the highest accomplishment I think you can attain or the highest compliment you can get from somebody. I’m very honored and humbled,” Wakefield said. “This has nothing to do with baseball. It has nothing to do with your statistics or anything. It has to do with your character. I take a lot of pride in my character.”
The 44-year-old Wakefield, who went 4-10 with a 5.34 ERA this year in his 18th major league season, also supports the Space Coast Early Intervention Center in his hometown of Melbourne, Fla.
Giants Hall of Famer Willie Mays was recipient of the first Roberto Clemente in 1971.
New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter won last year’s award. Other Roberto Clemente Award winners include 13 Hall of Famers — with Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken Jr. and Ozzie Smith among that group. St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols won in 2008.
Clemente was a Hall of Fame right fielder with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while trying to deliver food and relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He finished his career with exactly 3,000 hits.