ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It's one of the most prestigious awards in Major League Baseball. Every year, one player is named the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award. It's an annual recognition of a player's work off the field - given to someone who "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team."
Tampa Bay slugger Nelson Cruz and pitcher Ryan Yarbrough have both been named as nominees for the award. But, Cruz is not being recognized for any work he's done in the Bay area.
The Minnesota Twins nominated Cruz for his work in the Upper Midwest region throughout his two-and-a-half tenure with the team. The 41-year-old slugger was traded to the Rays on July 22 - near this season's trade deadline.
On the field, Cruz led the Twins to two consecutive American League Central Division titles and was named the team's back-to-back MVP. But, off the field, Cruz empowered people in socially vulnerable situations.
Among the long list of community projects Cruz was involved in was providing food and financial support to almost 1,200 Dominican families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cruz also provided delivered a $400,000 donation from MLB to the Dominican Republic which provided medical equipment and helped battle food insecurity during the pandemic.
Yarbrough was the nominee for the Rays. The team recognized his work with local schools during the pandemic. The left-handed pitcher encouraged students in the Tampa Bay area to read 24 hours over the summer. He and his wife, Nicole, also donated school supplies, clothes, sanitizing items and food to a local elementary school with 96 percent of the student body living at or below the poverty line.
Since coming to the Bay area, Cruz has slashed .244/.297/.506 with 12 home runs and 33 runs batted in. Yarbrough has had a rough season but has shown his versatility for the club by coming out of the bullpen.
The Rays currently hold an eight-game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East and are on pace to clinch a division title.