Pierre is White Sox Clemente nominee
Outfielder has done plenty to bring baseball to kids
DETROIT -- Juan Pierre enjoys special attention coming from personal accomplishments about as much as he looks forward to running against a pitcher with a great pickoff move to first base.
So, when Pierre found out he was being nominated by the White Sox for the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet, he had somewhat mixed feelings.
"It's an honor, but you know I like to stay behind the scenes ... as I was telling the White Sox, 'Nominate someone else,'" said Pierre with a smile. "But to be mentioned in the same breath as Roberto Clemente, for the humanitarian things he did, it's a great honor."
All 30 nominees have immersed themselves in the type of humanitarian and community efforts that distinguished the life of Clemente, a life that ended at age 38 on New Year's Eve, 1972, with the crash of a plane aboard which he was personally delivering aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims.
Fans will once again have the opportunity to participate in the selection of the national winner. They can cast votes for any of the 30 club nominees through Oct. 8.
The fan-ballot winner will be tallied as one vote among those cast by a special selection panel of baseball dignitaries and media members. The panel includes Commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, widow of the Hall of Fame right fielder.
Voting fans also will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip for four to the 2010 World Series to see the national winner presented with the Roberto Clemente Award.
Pierre will be recognized for this accomplishment by the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on Sept. 10, marking the first game they return home following this 10-game road trip. Pierre has focused attention on bringing baseball memories to inner-city youth, a program he started with the Marlins in 2003 and continued with the White Sox through "Pierre's Pack."
Once per month during the season, Pierre provides transportation, food, drink and T-shirts for the young fans at a White Sox game. In addition to Pierre spending time talking with them during batting practice, he also puts all the kids up in one of U.S. Cellular Field's luxury suites.
"Oh, yeah. They love it," said Pierre of the special events for his 'Pack.' "We get them in the suite, and they eat all the food they can and watch the game."
"He instills in kids a thoughtful message about making the right decisions, being hard working, and what you put in is what you get out," said White Sox senior director of community relations Christine O'Reilly. "It's not just bells and whistles, with a quick photo and an autograph."
Although Pierre is not a fan of any sort of showy behavior on the field, he did honor his group during a recent game against the Yankees. Pierre joked how the kids always ask him to steal a base, and when he swiped third against the Yankees, he pointed to the kids in the suite.
"I don't like bringing attention to myself," Pierre said. "They got a kick out of it, and that's what it's all about."
"Pierre's Pack" does not represent the affable leadoff hitter's only contribution to the community. He worked with teammates and White Sox Volunteer Corps members to paint and refurbish a local school.
When the team was in Baltimore, Pierre was part of the White Sox contingency visiting the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. He participated in the Chicago White Sox Charities first Bowling Fundraiser, serves as an RBI Team Captain and supports Orlando Hudson's "Around the Mound" Tour and "Skate for Autism" event, even though the good friends are now American League Central rivals.
Giving back to the Chicago area in his first year with the team is not something surprising where Pierre is concerned.
"He's very involved in the groups selected to come out for Pierre's Pack," O'Reilly said. "Juan makes sure he has generous amounts of time with them. I guess I was impressed, more than surprised.
"When we got him, I got e-mails from other community relations directors who just love him and talk about what a great guy he is," O'Reilly said.
Just don't ask Pierre to tout his good deeds.
"Being honored is nice, I guess," Pierre said. "I don't do the stuff I do to be noticed."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.