HOUSTON — Tampa Bay Rays DH Nelson Cruz, considered one of the premier sluggers on the field and an instrumental clubhouse leader, was honored for his work off the field Wednesday by receiving one of MLB’s most prestigious honors.
Cruz, the seven-time All-Star, is the 2021 recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award. He’ll receive the award from the Clemente family and Commissioner Rob Manfred before Game 2 of the World Series between Atlanta and the Houston Astros.
Cruz, who was nominated by the Minnesota Twins before he was traded to Tampa in July, becomes the fourth Twins’ player to receive the award, joining Hall of Famers Rod Carew, Dave Winfield and Kirby Puckett.
"It’s an honor to win the Roberto Clemente Award," Cruz said. "Clemente has served as an example for me and many others of what a baseball player can do on and off the field.
"I am grateful for this recognition."
Cruz’s honor recognizes his generosity and humanitarian efforts in his native Dominican Republic during the COVID-19 pandemic. He helped nearly 1,200 families during the pandemic, feeding families and providing financial support.
Cruz, 41, has been a hero to those in his hometown of Las Matas de Santa Cruz for years. He brings dentists and optometrists to his hometown to provide medicine, eyewear and checkups, with about 500 people requiting dental services.
He also provided his hometown with a fire engine, ambulance and 80 firefighter uniforms after his childhood friend’s home burned down in a fire.
His foundation, Nelson Broomstick 23, also has begun construction on an education and technical center.
"There is no one more deserving of this tremendous honor than Nelson Cruz," said Dave St. Peter, Twins president and CEO. "His dedication to uplifting those around him is unmatched, and we are in awe of all he has accomplished on and off the field. From Twins Territory to the Dominican Republic, Nelson’s commitment to community continues to have a significant impact across the globe."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nelson Cruz, Tampa Bay Rays DH, wins 2021 Roberto Clemente Award