Aug 23, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Chicago Cubs right fielderNate Schierholtz
(19) is congratulated by first basemanAnthony Rizzo
(44) after a three-run home run during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
With the season winding down, the various awards for the season will be handed out in the coming month, but for the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo, this one means a little more.
On Monday, the Chicago first baseman was nominated as the Cubs’ 2013 nominee for the Roberto Clemente award. Voting for the award runs from September 17 through October 6 at chevybaseball.com, allowing fans to help decide which of the 30 Major League Baseball players will receive this merit-laden honor. The field of 30 were chosen based on their dedication to their communities, as well as their abilities on the baseball diamond.
"It’s really an honor,” Rizzo told MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat Monday. “It’s something that Roberto did his entire career. For him to do what he did and establish his name, it’s pretty cool to be associated with that and all the guys who have won over the years."
Today marks Roberto Clemente Day across all of Major League Baseball, and it was instituted on the 30th anniversary of the Pirates’ outfielder’s untimely passing in 1972, in hopes of keeping his giving attitude alive in the game. Putting just what Clemente meant to the baseball world into words is a tall task. His career achievements – 3,000 hits, a .317 career average, 240 home runs and over 1,300 RBIs – all stand in a league of their own. At age 38, Clemente perished in a plane crash while delivering much-needed aid supplies to the capital of Nicaragua. After his previous three flights had been diverted by corrupt officials, Clemente chose to accompany the supplies himself to ensure those in need received them. It was in this spirit the award was created.
Rizzo, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2008, and although he went on to make a full recovery, the days that followed his diagnosis remain fresh in his mind, inspiring him to visit Chicagoland hospitals with great regularity.
"I always say my parents went through it worse than I did. So if I can talk to the parents and say, ‘It’s harder for you guys than it is for the kid and everything will be okay.’ I say the same thing to the kids. I tell them, ‘Your parents feel worse than you do.’ That’s the nature of it. Parents are worried when their kids go to the movies when they’re 16 years old. I can’t even imagine a sibling being sick."
In his first full season at the big league level, Rizzo has struggled with his batting average, but still leads the Cubs in terms of home runs and runs batted in. In May, following a very strong second half for Chicago in 2012, he received a 7-year, $41 million contract extension.
Prior to the September 23 game at Wrigley Field against the Pirates, Rizzo will be honored by the organization for his nomination. His foundation will also be presented a $7,500 grant in honor of his nomination.