Wakefield deserving Clemente nominee
Red Sox knuckleballer works tirelessly with charities
BOSTON -- For the last 16 seasons, Tim Wakefield has not only distinguished himself to Red Sox Nation with his flummoxing knuckleball, but also with a giving heart.
When it comes to charitable endeavors, there isn't much that Wakefield won't do. Therefore, it is little surprise that the 44-year-old right-hander is Boston's nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevy.
This is the eighth time the Red Sox have nominated Wakefield for the prestigious award.
"It's important to give back to the community that supports you on a daily basis on the field, and I've been fortunate enough to have been nominated so many times," said Wakefield. "It's still an honor. I don't care how many times you do it. It's an honor to get recognized for the things that you do off the field."
Wakefield will be recognized for being Boston's nominee before Wednesday night's game against the Rays at Fenway Park.
Every team in the Majors has one nominee, and all 30 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, with the crash of a plane aboard which he was personally delivering aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims.
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. 8.
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 2010 World Series to see the national winner presented with the Roberto Clemente Award.
For Wakefield, who broke into the Major Leagues with the Pirates, it is special to be associated with Clemente.
"It's a big deal, it really is," said Wakefield. "To me, it is."
Wakefield has helped those in need in both Boston and his home of Melbourne, Fla.
The knuckleballer is affiliated with Pitching in for Kids, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing specifically earmarked grants designed to improve the lives of children across the New England region. The program encourages kids to participate in special events and to learn crucial life skills.
Each year, Wakefield is at or near the top of the list in community appearances by Red Sox players. Before every Tuesday home game, he runs the Wakefield Warriors program, in which he invites children from the Franciscan Hospital and the Jimmy Fund to visit with him and watch batting practice. Wakefield held Franciscan Hospital raise $700,000 at a fund-raising gala and in 2009, the hospital thanked him by renaming their refurbished baseball field the Tim "Wake" Field.
In Melbourne, Wakefield is dedicated to the Space Coast Early Intervention Center. The center is a non-profit therapeutic pre-school program for children with special needs as well as typically developing children. Wakefield essentially saved the Space Coast Early Intervention Center from going out of business in 1992 and has supported the program since.
"It's nice to get recognized for the things that you do off the field," said Wakefield. "There are a lot of deserving candidates on this team alone. There's so many guys that do a lot of stuff. I'm fortunate to be honored and recognized."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.