Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield has been named the recipient of the 2010 Roberto Clemente award, an award given annually to the player who "combines a dedication to giving back to the community with outstanding skills on the baseball field."
It was the eighth nomination for Wakefield, a player who has given tirelessly to charities ranging from the Jimmy Fund to his "Pitching in for Kids" organization to the Space Coast Early Intervention Center in his hometown of Melbourne, Fla., among other organizations.
"Every one of those definitions [he fits]," said Mike Andrews, former chairman of the Jimmy Fund. "I would say this is long overdue. He should have gotten it by now."
In talking to Andrews, it appears that he could go on and on about Wakefield. As he said yesterday, "I would have to say in my years of baseball playing and then my 31 years with the Jimmy Fund, I have never seen anybody exceed his charitable generosity. Giving his time, giving his money, and really caring, he's one of those very, very unique people that come along every now and then. You always know with Tim that it's heartfelt. It isn't something that he feels an obligation to do it, he really gets into it."
Wakefield was selected from a list of 30 nominees, one from each club, by a panel that includes Commissioner Bud Selig and Clemente's wife, Vera. Wakefield follows past winners such as Derek Jeter (2009), Albert Pujols (2008), and Craig Biggio (2007), along with 13 Hall of Famers. He is the first member of the Red Sox to have received the award.
Wakefield will be presented with the award this afternoon in San Francisco, before Game 2 of the World Series.
Andrews tells a story, about a Chicago visit that Jimmy Fund patients made a couple of years ago. A group was sitting in the stands, and Wakefield joined them, sat with them. When it was time to leave, he got up, shook their hands, and noticed there was one teenaged boy who wouldn't be able to get down the stands, as he had lost a leg. Wakefield put the kid on his back, and walked him down the stands, as it would have been difficult for the boy to get down on his own.
"That's the kind of thing he does, and he doesn't do it because cameras are running," Andrews said. "He just said, well, this is tough for him and I should help. That's just the way he is."
And that hasn't changed as Wakefield has gotten older, as he has gotten toward the end of his 18-year career, 16 years of which have been spent in Boston.
"From the day he got here," Andrews said. "I sometimes try to figure out why somebody like Tim Wakefield is like Tim Wakefield is. I doubt this has anything to do with it, but he had the hard knocks getting to the big leagues, really the hard knocks. He was an infielder and got released and had a knuckleball and came back. I think it wasn't a free ride to the big leagues for Tim Wakefield. Did that make him more of a down to earth guy than a lot of them are? Maybe.
"But I think it goes much deeper than that, honestly. I just think it was the way he was brought up. I just think it's the way he is. He's very unique, and I don't mean to single him out as the only giving ballplayer that we've had. There are so many that have given so much, but Tim just gives a little bit more and continuously."