Rays’ Nelson Cruz named 2021 Roberto Clemente Award recipient

Tampa Bay Rays slugger Nelson Cruz. (Tony Dejak/AP)

Tampa Bay Rays slugger Nelson Cruz has been named the 2021 Roberto Clemente Award recipient.

He is the 50th winner of the award which is given out annually to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.”

Cruz, who was actually nominated by the Minnesota Twins despite being traded to the Rays in July, is being “recognized for his generosity and humanitarian efforts in his home Club markets and his hometown in the Dominican Republic.”

The seven-time All-Star was also nominated for the award in 2018 and 2020.

Here are some examples of contributions he’s made, according to MLB’s press release:

• Helped feed more than 700 families and provided financial support to individuals not able to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, nearly 1,200 families received direct support from Nelson due to COVID-related hardships.

• After a childhood friend lost his home to a fire, Cruz provided his town (Las Matas de Santa Cruz) with a fire engine, 80 firefighter uniforms and an ambulance to help treat and transport people to the nearest hospital (nearly an hour away).

• Each year, Cruz brings dentists and optometrists to his town’s clinic to provide checkups, medicine and eyewear. In 2020, 500 patients received a variety of much-needed dental services.

• This summer, Cruz’s Boomstick23 Foundation began construction on an education and technical center, a place to host training for technical skills and how to better use farmland to produce crops. The training is aimed to provide skills and a path toward employment and income stability.

• Cruz was a leader in generating support from MLB, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and the MLBPA Players Trust resulting in a $400,000 donation to the Dominican Republic to provide medical equipment and address food insecurity during the pandemic.

Cruz will officially receive the award from commissioner Rob Manfred and the Clemente family before Game 2 of the World Series Wednesday.

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