Every year, each MLB team nominates one of their players for the Roberto Clemente Award.
The Roberto Clemente Award is given to the player who best represents the game of baseball
through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy, and positive contributions on and off the field. It was initially known as the Commissioner’s award and has
been presented by the MLB since 1971. In 1973, the award was named after Clemente following his death in a plane crash delivering supplies to victims of the Nicaragua earthquake. Players such as Willie Mays, Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn, David Ortiz, and Jimmy Rollins have
all won the prestigious award.
Even getting nominated for the award is a tremendous honor, and this year Cotuit has four
previous players who were nominated. Tony Kemp (2012), James McCann (2010), Jared Walsh
(2013), and Josh Rojas (2015) have all been selected to represent their teams. When talking to
Head Coach Mike Roberts, it was no surprise to him that these players were nominated. “Each
of these former Kettleers stepped up as leaders soon after they arrived at Lowell Park. Young
men who are strong leaders on the field usually step up for good causes off the field,” stated
Tony Kemp, the nominee for the Oakland Athletics, partners with multiple organizations off the field. One of his biggest partners is Players for Planet and One Tree Planted. Kemp is a player ambassador to further the organization’s mission to plant trees in urban communities. In 2020 Kemp started his +1 Effect campaign. Stemming from the death of George Floyd, the +1 Effect campaign is aimed to change one perspective and hope they go on to change another and slowly begin to see a change. Kemp wanted to be part of the change he wanted to see in the world, which is why he established the +1 Effect movement. The second baseman also works with Players Alliance, where they work to create an inclusive culture within baseball and the community. With Players Alliance, Kemp hosted a group of children and volunteers from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Oakland at the Coliseum to enjoy batting practice and the Athletics game.
James McCann, the nominee for the New York Mets, does a lot of community work with the NICU unit in hospitals. His work with the NICU unit started because Mccann’s twin boys were both born prematurely and spent seven weeks in the NICU. The McCanns often pay visits to the NICU, where they can relate to the families going through the same thing they did. McCann is able to use his platform to share his story, which is often seen as therapeutic for other parents going through the ups and downs of the NICU unit. The catcher also participated in the MLB’s “Share a Moment with Mom” initiative, inviting oncology nurse and cancer survivor Joy Teniozo to Citi Field. Joy took part in a pregame ceremony where she was honored and got to throw out the first pitch that McCann caught.
Jared Walsh, the nominee for the Angels, is heavily involved with the Angels community engagement team. Walsh has a long list of volunteerism. Some of his volunteerism include the
PLAY BALL Weekend Clinic, visiting young patients at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, and reading library books to kids through the Rally Readers program. In the offseason, Jared and his mother actively participate with Habitat for Humanity in Atlanta. They worked with Hands on Atlanta to support the local Atlanta communities impacted by food insecurity. With Hands on Atlanta, they sorted and packed boxes of pantry items that ended up being distributed. The Angel first baseman lost his father when he was 19 years old and has seen how being a single parent can impact a family, which is why he is involved with The Single Parent Project. The Project offers financial assistance and resources to single parents.
Josh Rojas from the Arizona Diamondbacks is Cotuit’s final nominee. Coming from a close-knit
family, giving back was an integral part of his upbringing. Playing for his hometown team Rojas is able to support the Little League he played at when he was a kid. He offers free camps and clinics to kids across the West Valley in Arizona. All his gear gets donated to his high school alma mater, where he has clinics and training for the student-athletes. Rojas often hosts back-to-school events for high schoolers, offering college scholarships to deserving candidates.This past July, the Diamondback hosted a Baseball Camp at Chase Field, where all the attendees had an unforgettable day at the park and walked home with a replica Rojas T-shirt. Even before they became Major Leaguers, these Kettleers were actively involved in the Cotuit baseball camps. “All four of these players were terrific counselors at camp. The young campers loved being around these players, and the players embraced working with the 6 to 12-year-old campers,” said Roberts. The prestigious award winner will be announced on September 15th, marking the 21st annual Roberto Clemente Day.