Though his managerial duties for a Puerto Rican national team kept him from appearing before Game 2 of the World Series to receive his trophy, St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina has been selected as the 2018 Roberto Clemente Award winner.
“He is really sad that he couldn’t be here,” said Wanda Molina, who accepted the award on behalf of her husband at the ceremony. “But we’re very happy. It’s a huge honor. It’s the biggest recognition to receive the Roberto Clemente Award, especially for a Puerto Rican. He’s our legend and our own hero. And every time your name is next to his, it’s wonderful.”
Presented annually to the player that “best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field”, the Roberto Clemente Award was originally created in 1971 as the “Commissioner’s Award”.
It was renamed in 1973 to honor Clemente, who died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
Each MLB team selected a nominee for the award, which is to highlight players who “truly understand the value of helping others”.
This time last year, Molina was heavily involved in efforts to aid Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the region. Yadi and Wanda set up a GoFundMe page to raise money and then through their non-profit charity, used the money to buy supplies–which he personally helped distribute. Molina has continued to assist by hosting charitable events for the cause.
“Yadi was really the spearhead in some ways of the efforts in Puerto Rico,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred during the pregame presentation. “There were pallets of supplies that he arranged to be delivered to Puerto Rico.
And I think even more impressive was his individual presence there. He worked many, many long days clearing roads, putting roofs on houses, helping individual people. And when the immediate need started to subside, he turned to fundraising. He had a great dinner that raised about $800,000 for hurricane relief.”
Like Molina, Boston manager Alex Cora is a native of Puerto Rico. He witnessed first hand the difference Molina was able to make.
“It was amazing,” said Cora. “I know he helped most of the towns back home, but there’s one specifically, Utuado, and that’s where Springer’s family is from, George. And he went up there and he went house by house to give ice bags and food. He was up there for a while. I call him the leader because he’s the leader of our national team. He’s the leader of the St. Louis Cardinals. And he’s the leader on the field. But off the field, he became the leader last year.
“He put a lot of effort, his foundation, they do an outstanding job. Yadi and Wanda and the kids. I’m very proud of him. Actually it’s kind of like ironic that I don’t think he’s going to be able to be here, but the reason is the right one: He’s managing our under-23 national team. So he gets the Roberto Clemente Award. And Clemente, he managed our national team at one point while he was playing in the Big Leagues. Because Yadi is not here because of that, it’s like, wow, it was meant to be.
“Very proud of him. Very proud of what he’s done throughout his career. But I think last year was the highlight of his career. What he did was amazing.”
This is the fifth time a player from the St. Louis Cardinals has received the award, the most from any MLB team. Molina joins Lou Brock (’75), Ozzie Smith (’95), Albert Pujols (’08), and Carlos Beltran (’13) with the honors.
photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports