This year marked the 40th anniversary of Roberto Clemente's final season, and the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to keep the Hall of Fame outfielder's memory alive in a number of ways. That fact was certainly in evidence in mid-September.
Back on September 18, the Pirates announced pitcher Chris Resop as their nominee for the 2012 Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet. The award, which was established by Major League Baseball to pay tribute to Clemente's achievements and character, recognizes current players who best combine outstanding skills on the field with devoted work in the community, and truly understand the value of helping others. Resop officially received the honor during an on-field ceremony that took place prior to a Pirates-Brewers game at PNC Park.
Clemente won four National League batting titles and 12 Rawlings Gold Glove Awards during his 18 seasons with the Pirates (1955-1972), plus he was the N.L. MVP in 1966 and the MVP of the World Series in 1971. The man known as "The Great One" died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve in 1972 while attempting to deliver relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
Resop, who has been a key member of the Pirates' bullpen the past two seasons, is one of the 30 club finalists for the annual award. The winner will be announced during the World Series. He is very active in the community and a large part of his outreach is focused towards pediatric cancer awareness and support in his home state of Florida and in the Pittsburgh area.
Last off-season, Chris and his wife Kara raised more than $10,000 for the All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL, and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. He also raised nearly $12,000 for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation through the "Cut-For-A-Cure" event. During the 2012 season, Resop co-hosted the "Bowling with the Bucs" charity event with fellow reliever Joel Hanrahan that raised more than $30,000 for Pirates Charities. He is also very supportive of his teammates' charity efforts such as Jeff Karstens' "Karstens Kares" fund raiser and Charlie Morton's military appreciation events.
"It means a lot," Resop said of receiving the honor. "Obviously I don't do it for recognition. It's just something I enjoy, giving back to the community and helping kids out whenever I can. I've been fortunate to live the life I've lived, and I have time to do it before I come to the field. So I really cherish and enjoy it.
"Roberto is an icon here, probably the biggest in Pirates history. To now be recognized for an award named after him is an honor. I'm nowhere near what kind of a guy he was, and some of the things he did for the community. But you try and do the best you can."
Karstens, who was the Pirates' nominee for the Clemente Award last year, has this to say: "Chris is a guy who is always going to give his time and not really say much about it. He goes out of his way to do extra things and that's really nice to watch. I don't think we look for the recognition, we just use the platform we have as professional athletes to help others. We're very fortunate to be able to do what we do, and when you go to a hospital or a charity event it really puts life in perspective. The award was something I was grateful to earn last year and I'm proud that Chris got it this year."
As part of the pre-game ceremonies at PNC Park on September 18, the Pirates also recognized one player from each of their minor league affiliates as the recipients of the organization's fifth annual Pirates Community Commitment Program (PCCP) awards. The program encourages players throughout the Pirates' system to emulate Clemente's legacy of community service.
More than 13,000 hours of community service have been performed by Pirates players throughout the organization since the program was implemented in 2008 and each player completes a minimum of 10 hours of community service in their respective affiliate's area during the season.
Nivar is a four-time PCCP award winner and has logged more than 250 hours of community service time over those four years between the Pirates Dominican Summer League, Gulf Coast League and State College Spikes teams.
As part of Major League Baseball's annual Roberto Clemente Day celebration, the Pirates also visited Dilworth Elementary School of the Pittsburgh Public Schools system on September 19. That day the children there attended an assembly where they had the opportunity to hear from Pirates President Frank Coonelly and Manager Clint Hurdle, and were introduced to many of the team's players and coaches.
Following the assembly, the players helped to distribute $25,000 in school supplies and equipment purchased by Pirates Charities for Dilworth students. The supplies included 30 iPads, which will be used to assist teachers in facilitating an arts-integrated digital portfolio project at all grade levels -- plus Clemente children's books, portable basketball hoops, basketballs, jump ropes and more.
"Every year we look forward to giving back to the Pittsburgh community on this special day," Pirates Chairman Bob Nutting said. "We are proud to continue the tradition of making a tangible impact in our community in honor of the legacy of the great Roberto Clemente, a man that means so much to this organization and this region."