09/07/2010 8:12 PM ET
Josh Willingham named Washington Nationals' nominee for the 2010 Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet
Fans are encouraged to vote for Willingham to receive the national award online
Washington Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham was named the team's 2010 nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet, the Nationals announced today.
Willingham is one of the 30 club nominees who are finalists for the national award, which is given annually to the Major League Baseball player who combines a dedication to giving back to the community with outstanding skills on the baseball field. Tomorrow will mark the ninth annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by Major League Baseball to honor Clemente's legacy and to officially recognize local club nominees of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet.
The Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet recognizes players who best represent the game of baseball through sportsmanship, community involvement and positive contributions to their clubs. The award is named for the 12-time All-Star and Hall of Famer who died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The award pays tribute to Clemente's achievements and character by recognizing talented current players who truly understand the value of helping others.
Since joining the Nationals in 2009, Willingham has devoted much of his time to enhancing the foundation he created with his wife, Ginger, that same year. The Josh Willingham Foundation is committed to providing life-changing opportunities and experiences to underserved children in the communities in which the couple has lived throughout Josh's career, primarily focusing on their hometown of Florence, Ala. The foundation's first project, for instance, involved building a public playground in Florence. Since its inception, Willingham has been actively involved in the organization and hosted the first major fundraiser -- a charity golf tournament in Alabama -- in the fall of 2009.
In addition to his individual efforts, Willingham has made a commitment to giving back to the military community in and around Washington. In partnership with the USO, the Nationals launched the "Me & A Friend" program on July 4 to give military kids the opportunity to enjoy a baseball game with their friends, and Willingham volunteered to stay on the field after the game to greet the children who attended as they ran the bases. He also assisted USO volunteers in stuffing care packages for soldiers stationed overseas and has made special trips to local military hospitals (Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center) to visit with patients.
Willingham has participated in many team-sanctioned events as well, including the 2009 and 2010 Winter Caravan, during which he traveled to a local elementary school to read to inner-city students and stopped by Children's National Medical Center to visit patients undergoing treatment. He has also attended the annual Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Gala the past two years (2009 and 2010).
"Josh's willingness to give so much of his time to the team's community-service efforts on top of his own Foundation commitments is a true testament to his generous spirit and integrity," Nationals president Stan Kasten said. "The Nationals are proud to have Josh serve as our team's nominee for this prestigious award."
The Washington Nationals will host Roberto Clemente Day on Wednesday, Sept. 8, when they face the New York Mets at 12:35 p.m. ET. Willingham will be recognized prior to the game in an on-field ceremony that will also feature students from Roberto Clemente Middle School (Germantown, Md.) singing the national anthem and vignettes highlighting Clemente's greatest moments.
The distinguished list of national Roberto Clemente Award recipients includes 13 members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame:
*Member of Baseball Hall of Fame
|1971 Willie Mays* ||
1984 Ron Guidry ||
1997 Eric Davis|
1972 Brooks Robinson* ||
1985 Don Baylor ||
1998 Sammy Sosa|
1973 Al Kaline* ||
1986 Garry Maddox ||
1999 Tony Gwynn*|
1974 Willie Stargell* ||
1987 Rick Sutcliffe ||2000 Al Leiter|
|1975 Lou Brock* ||1988 Dale Murphy ||2001 Curt Schilling|
|1976 Pete Rose ||1989 Gary Carter* ||2002 Jim Thome|
|1977 Rod Carew* ||1990 Dave Stewart ||2003 Jamie Moyer|
|1978 Greg Luzinski ||1991 Harold Reynolds ||2004 Edgar Martinez|
|1979 Andre Thornton ||1992 Cal Ripken, Jr.* ||2005 John Smoltz|
|1980 Phil Niekro* ||1993 Barry Larkin ||2006 Carlos Delgado|
|1981 Steve Garvey ||1994 Dave Winfield* ||2007 Craig Biggio|
|1982 Ken Singleton ||1995 Ozzie Smith* ||2008 Albert Pujols|
|1983 Cecil Cooper ||1996 Kirby Puckett* ||2009 Derek Jeter
Fans are encouraged to participate in the process of selecting the national award recipient by visiting www.chevy.com/clemente from Sept. 7 to Oct. 8 to vote for one of the 30 club nominees. The winner of the fan poll will receive one vote among those cast by the selection panel, which includes Vera Clemente, wife of the late Hall of Famer, and Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. MLB celebrates Roberto Clemente Day as part of the broader "MLB Going Beyond" platform, which strives to integrate community service and the importance of giving back.