Youkilis an Example of All That Is Right With Baseball

Youkilis an Example of All That Is Right With BaseballI love the Roberto Clemente Award. This honor salutes the best of baseball’s best. Each team nominates one player, and every one of the nominees is worthy of being honored.

That’s because the award recognizes those players who best represent the game of baseball through sportsmanship, community involvement and positive contributions to their teams.

The award is named for Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente, who died on New Year’s Eve 1972 in a plane crash. The plane was overloaded with supplies intended for the earthquake victims of his native Nicaragua. This award is baseball’s way of saluting current-day players who truly understand the value of helping others.

The Red Sox have nominated Kevin Youkilis, who — in addition to his masterful performances on the field — is a hero off the field as well. Over the past two years, Youkilis and his charity, Hits for Kids, has raised nearly $2 million through charitable events and programs. Youkilis works with numerous organizations that are addressing issues such as premature childbirth, early childhood literacy and teen suicide prevention. In addition, every month over the last four seasons, Youk’s Kids provides tickets to children from area nonprofit organizations. They get to go to a Red Sox game and meet Youkils, who joins them for pictures and signs autographs.

In the offseason, Youkilis supports local reading groups, goes trick-or-treating at a local children’s hospital and spends every Christmas morning visiting patients at Boston Children’s Hospital. Like so many of his teammates, he is actively involved supporting the Red Sox Foundation.

Youk is a hero off the field and so are Big Papi, Tim Wakefield, Mikey Lowell and many of the other players as well. But this isn’t just a Red Sox thing. When you head to http://www.chevy.com/clemente, take the time to look at all the nominees, and you will feel really proud of being a baseball fan. Familiarize yourself with guys like:

•    The Dodgers’ Orlando Hudson, whose main focus in the community is the C.A.T.C.H. (Curing Autism Through Hope and Change) Foundation, a nonprofit he founded to provide resources and a support system for youth coping with autism.

•    The Nationals’ John Lannan, who launched Lannan’s Cannons, a ticket program for children and their families staying at The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health. The Children’s Inn is a “place like home” for sick children and their families who have come from across the country and around the world to undergo newly-developed therapies at NIH, the world’s leading biomedical research center.

•    The Orioles’ Nick Markakis, who — with his wife Christina — made his annual $75,000 contribution to the Orioles Charitable Foundation on Tuesday, and earlier this year established The Right Side Foundation to assist children in need in Maryland.

•    Derek Jeter, who established the Turn 2 Foundation in 1996 as a mechanism for giving back to the various communities that are a part of his life. Since its inception, the foundation has awarded more than $10 million in grants to create and support signature programs and activities that motivate young people to turn away from drugs and alcohol and “TURN 2” healthy lifestyles.

I can go on and on about each team’s nominee and the many players who were not nominated. There are many people who root for laundry, meaning for or against anybody who is wearing a particular uniform. The Roberto Clemente Award enables you to root for the great human being wearing the uniform, no matter what team it represents. It’s just another reason why I love this game.

Bill Chuck is the creator of Billy-Ball.com and, with Jim Kaplan, is the author of Walk-Offs, Last Licks, and Final Outs — Baseball’s Grand (and not so Grand) Finales, with a foreword by Jon Miller, published by ACTA Sports. Bill Chuck is a regular contributor to NESN and NESN.com and is available at Bill@billy-ball.com.

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