Nomination for Clemente Award has special meaning for Mariners’ Robinson Cano
Sep 7, 2016, 7:12 PM | Updated: 7:15 pm
Long before he cashed his first professional paycheck, Robinson Cano knew he was fortunate. Growing up in the Dominican Republic, the son of major league pitcher Jose Cano, his eyes were open to what was around him.
“Growing up around kids that sometimes they don’t have food, they have to come over to the house (to eat). Good friends who didn’t have shoes, they had to go and work cleaning shoes, to make some money,” he remembered. “I would say, if I play at the big league level, why not? Why not give back to the community?”
Cano has done that. Through his RC22 Foundation he has impacted lives in the Dominican Republic, and for his efforts he has been honored as the Mariners’ nominee for MLB’s Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.”
Cano was recognized before Wednesday’s game – on Clemente Day – for his nomination, and for him the recognition has special meaning.
“As a kid you hear about Roberto, he was a great player, but as you grow up you start watching the story, reading more. You learn what kind of a person he was what a human being, what a role model. To be able to play at this level, to play on this day, it’s an honor,” he said.
For Cano, the inspiration of Clemente comes from the origin of his good deeds. It is one thing to write a check, but to be involved and to give of oneself is another matter.
“It has to come from your heart,” he said. “It came from Roberto’s heart. They had the earthquake in Nicaragua. Getting on the plane for all of those people you don’t know? It has to come from your heart.”
While MLB honors Clemente with the annual award and day in his honor, which is observed in all Major League stadiums, Cano – like many big leaguers – would like to see Clemente’s number retired throughout baseball.
“The way he died and all of the great stuff he did, and the first Latino to ever play. Why not do it for the first Latino?” said Cano before rattling off Clemente’s numbers from the top of his head. “He was a great player. At the age of 38 he had 3,000 hits, 12 All-Star games, 12 Gold Gloves. World Series MVP, four batting titles…
“He was somebody that also opened doors for other Latinos. For me, Roberto is the face of Latinos. They should retire Roberto’s number. I would love that.”
With or without the number retirement, Clemente has left his mark on the game, both on and off the field, and a huge part of his legacy is giving back. Cano is thrilled to see his young teammate Edwin Diaz already following Clemente’s example, gathering used equipment to take home to Puerto Rico to distribute in the offseason as well as holding baseball clinics the last few years.
“He’s great,” Cano said of Diaz. “It’s amazing. It just shows you don’t have to be at the big league level to do that. I am happy for him. I’m going to go this year. He asked me and I said yes. It’s something that you have got to support your guy. Great teammate, great kid with a bright future.”
Perhaps a future Clemente Award winner. To vote for Cano, post #VoteCano to MLB’s official social media accounts, @MLB on Twitter and facebook.com/MLB.