By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS — As an 11-year veteran and a student of the game, Michael Cuddyer knows plenty about Roberto Clemente and the importance of giving back to the community.
That’s why Cuddyer was thrilled to be named the Twins’ nominee for this year’s Roberto Clemente Award, which is given annually to the Major League Baseball player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team,” as voted on by baseball fans and members of the media.
“It’s a tremendous honor for the organization to think that highly of you for giving back to the community,” Cuddyer said. “You don’t do it for the recognition, but it’s definitely nice to be recognized.”
All 30 nominees have immersed themselves in the type of humanitarian and community efforts that distinguished the life of Clemente, a life that ended at age 38 on New Year’s Eve 1972, when the plane he was using to deliver aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims crashed.
“He was one of the great ambassadors for the game and for all of humanity,” Cuddyer said. “I think having him as the namesake for that award is perfect. So, to be nominated for that and have your name as one of those award recipients is really cool. It just lets you know you’re doing things the right way.”
Fans will once again have the opportunity to participate in the selection of the national winner. They can cast votes for any of the 30 club nominees through Oct. 9.
The fan-ballot winner will be tallied as one vote among those cast by a special selection panel of baseball dignitaries and media members. The panel includes Commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, widow of the Hall of Fame right fielder.
Voting fans also will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip for four to the 2011 World Series to see the national winner presented with the Roberto Clemente Award.
Cuddyer, the Twins’ longest-tenured player, is one of baseball’s most active participants when it comes to community efforts.
He’s the lone player representative on the board of directors for the Twins Community Fund, which is a non-profit organization that works to enrich local and regional communities by providing resources for the healthy development of children and families through an association with baseball, softball and the Twins. As a board member, Cuddyer helps direct grant and program funds to worthy organizations and assists in organizing Twins players to participate in fundraisers for the organizations.
He also acts as a spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities through local public service announcements, and assists the clubs through his participation in a number of fundraisers, including serving as emcee for the annual “FS North Kids in the City” fundraiser.
In 2007, he founded the “Michael Cuddyer Celebrity Waiter Dinner,” an event that brings his teammates together to serve as waiters to donors, and has raised more than $250,000 for the clubs to date.
He also founded the community ticket program called “Cuddy’s Buddies” in 2006. Since then, more than 26,000 children have attended a Twins game for free as part of the program.
Those examples are simply just a few of the ways that Cuddyer gives back to his community, as he feels it’s an essential part of being a big league player.
“I don’t care what anybody says — we’re obligated to give back,” Cuddyer said. “The community accepts you and takes you in, so it’s only the right thing to do to give back to those guys and people who are less fortunate.”