By Rob Rains
Adam Wainwright is the winner of this year’s Roberto Clemente Award from Major League Baseball.
The announcement was made on Monday during a broadcast on MLB Network.
The award is presented annually to the player who “best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”
“This is the crown jewel of any award I have ever received,” Wainwright said. “But, to me, it’s more than just an award. What Mr. Clemente stood for, and the way he lived his life on and off the field, goes beyond what any award could fully embody. Even being mentioned in the same sentence with him is an incredible honor. I feel very blessed to receive the Clemente award, and I will continue to try and live up to his standards as long as I live. Thank you so much to everyone who helped make this happen. It is truly a dream come true.”
The 39-year-old Wainwright, who has spent all 15 of his major-league seasons with the Cardinals and currently is a free agent, has been active in charitable projects throughout his career and is the founder and president of Big League Impact.
The charity has grown from a local fantasy football league concept into an organization of multiple professional athletes spanning Major League Baseball and other sports. To date the charity has raised nearly $6 million for charities across the United States since its inception in 2013.
Big League Impact was founded by Wainwright to raise funds that provide for basic human needs, including food, clean water, medical care and shelter.
Wainwright’s personal efforts have helped Operation Food Search in St. Louis and international clean water engineering through Water Mission. Other charities which have benefitted from Wainwright’s organization includes Crisis Aid International and Food for the Hungry.
“The personal and dedicated attention he has given to addressing issues that affect those in greatest need is a wonderful demonstration of Roberto’s humanitarian legacy,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. “He is most deserving to be counted among the recipients of this prestigious honor.”
When the pandemic hit the United States and Canada this spring, Wainwright and Big League Impact joined with the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids foundation and MLB to establish the Home Plate Project, which raised nearly $1 million and provided meals to more than four million children who were not able to get lunch when schools were closed.
The effort included at least one player from all 30 MLB teams.
“As an athlete, you only get a few years to have a platform like this…
might as well stand on it,” Wainwright has said of his charity work. Big League Impact has given me an opportunity to see places and meet people that have forever changed me. There are so many people in our world that need help… we will never grow tired of trying to find them.”
Wainwright is the second Cardinal to win the award in the last three years. Yadier Molina was the recipient of the award in 2018 for his fundraising efforts the wake of a hurricane that hit Puerto Rico.
Other Cardinals who have won the award since its inception in 1971 were Carlos Beltran, Albert Pujols, Ozzie Smith and Lou Brock.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports