Clemente Award winners wear ’21’ on their caps | News, Sports, Jobs

WASHINGTON — Washington Nationals designated hitter Nelson Cruz removed his game-day hat from a hook near his club locker Thursday to show that a “21” patch was sewn on the back to honor Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente.

Like other recipients of the Humanitarian Award named in memory of Clemente, Cruz will be permitted to wear the Pittsburgh Pirates star outfielder’s uniform number on his cap for the remainder of his major league career. Cruz wears number 23 on his jersey.

Major League Baseball announced the initiative Thursday, saying it was a “special tribute to the lasting legacy of (Clemente).” The announcement was timed for the 50th anniversary of the year in which Clemente died in a plane crash aged 38 during a relief effort to help earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

“It’s a privilege. An honor. He means so much to baseball, in general. He was an example to follow – how to be professional, on and off the pitch. A remarkable player and a remarkable human being who lost his life trying to help others,” Cruz said ahead of Washington’s home opener against the visiting New York Mets.

“He paid the ultimate price, and whatever we do is not enough.”

The Roberto Clemente Award is announced at each World Series and given to a player for “extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”

“It means the world” said Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who, like Clemente, is from Puerto Rico. “Everyone knows why you wear this number. It means a lot, for the player, for the families, for the organizations. I think it’s a great way to show respect to the individual.

In addition to Cruz, Clemente’s active winners include Carlos Carrasco (Mets), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Andrew McCutchen (Brewers), Anthony Rizzo (Yankees) and Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright (Cardinals).

“The Roberto Clemente award is by far the best award I have won in my career,” Rizzo said. “Just representing him, having that recognition of his number in the forefront of the caps of many players in the league will be in his honor. It is very deserving because he served everyone.

Cruz said he was contacted during spring training to ask if he wanted to wear the patch.

“Easy decision, no doubt,” he said.

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