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Cruz Named Winner Of Roberto Clemente Award

photo: Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Nelson Cruz‘s work for the betterment in his community has not been lost on the baseball world, and now the 41-year-old slugger will be recognized officially for it, as he has been named the winner of the 2021 Roberto Clemente Award.

The award is named for the Hall of Fame outfielder who died in a plane crash while attempting to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua on New Years Eve 1972.

Cruz, who was the selection for the Minnesota Twins prior to his trade to the Rays, is being honored for his numerous efforts both in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region and in his hometown of Las Matas De Santa Cruz in the Dominocan Republic:

  • Providing food and financial support to nearly 1,200 Las Matas De Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic families during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing the resources necessary for them to comply with stay-at-home orders.
  • Leading the delivery of a $400,000 donation from Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and the MLBPA Players Trust Returning Home program to the Dominican Republic, which provided medical equipment and helped to battle food insecurity in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Assisting his hometown of Las Matas De Santa Cruz by donating a fire engine and an ambulance to treat and transport people to the closest hospital, which is one hour away. He also built a new police station and donated a motorcycle for the city’s police officers, who previously had to walk.
  • Annually bringing dentists, optometrists and other volunteer doctors, along with donated equipment and medicine, to his hometown clinic, providing checkups, medicine and eyewear.
  • Purchasing wheelchairs, crutches, walkers and canes for elderly and disabled residents of his hometown.
  • Leading his Boomstick23 Foundation in establishing a new education and technical center to help the youth of Las Matas De Santa Cruz advance their employability by completing their high school education online, learning different trades such as carpentry/electrical, and how better to use farmland to produce crops.
  • Assisting the Healing Venezuela initiative, which helps 2,000 Venezuelan newborns annually receive life-sustaining nourishment during their first year (a 400% increase since Cruz’s involvement).
  • Raising funds through the Big League Impact ALL WIN campaign in 2019, impacting the Education Center in the Monte Cristi province, Dominican Republic.
  • Engaging with Twin Cities area youth, including hosting a vitilla clinic with Twins RBI All-Stars in 2019.

“It’s hard to describe the monumental impact that Nelson Cruz had – and still has – on the Minnesota Twins organization,” Twins President & CEO Dave St. Peter said in his nomination of Cruz for the team’s selection. “His leadership, professionalism and elite play made us better on the field, while his work in the community has improved the lives of innumerable people. We are in awe of all Nellie accomplished during his time in Minnesota, and truly grateful for his efforts. Nelson Cruz will always have a special place in Twins Territory.”

Written By

Steve Carney is the founder and publisher of St. Pete Nine. One of the people most associated with baseball coverage in Tampa Bay, he spent 13 seasons covering the Rays for flagship radio station WDAE, first as producer of Rays Radio broadcasts, then as beat reporter beginning in 2011. He likes new analytics and aged bourbon, and is the owner of one of the ugliest knuckleballs ever witnessed by baseball scouts.

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