Nelson Cruz named Twins nominee for 2021 Roberto Clemente Award |

Nelson Cruz named Twins nominee for 2021 Roberto Clemente Award

Minnesota Twins' Nelson Cruz celebrates his two-run home run against the Cleveland Indians in the fifth inning. Photo: AP/Bruck Kluckhohn. Minnesota Twins' Nelson Cruz celebrates his two-run home run against the Cleveland Indians in the fifth inning.

Tommy Wiita
Updated: September 14, 2021 11:59 AM
Created: September 14, 2021 11:26 AM

On Tuesday, Major League Baseball announced that former Minnesota Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz has been named the team's nominee for the 2021 Roberto Clemente Award, baseball's most prestigious individual honor for major leaguers. 

Although he was acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays on July 22, Cruz remains the Twins' nominee in recognition of his impact on the organization and Upper Midwest region in 2021 throughout his two-and-a-half seasons in Minnesota. 

The award is the annual recognition of a major league player who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field. 

Wednesday, Sept. 15 marks the 20th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by the MLB to honor Clemente's legacy as a humanitarian. As part of the league-wide celebration, the day's logo will appear on the bases and official dugout lineup cards, a special tribute video will be played in ballparks, and all players and on-field personnel will wear a "21" patch on their uniform sleeves. 

Cruz led the Twins to back-to-back American League Central Division titles; was twice voted the team's MVP; won back-to-back Silver Slugger Awards for his position; hit 76 home runs and collected 191 RBI in 258 games; and was named to this year's All-Star team. 

Cruz's efforts off the field also focused on empowering people in situations of social vulnerability and using sports and education to help kids reach their potential to become leaders and improve their quality of life. Some of those actions includes:

  • Providing food and financial support to nearly 1,200 Las Matas De Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic families during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing the resources necessary for them to comply with stay-at-home orders.
  • Leading the delivery of a $400,000 donation from Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and the MLBPA Players Trust Returning Home program to the Dominican Republic, which provided medical equipment and helped to battle food insecurity in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Assisting his hometown of Las Matas De Santa Cruz by donating a fire engine and an ambulance to treat and transport people to the closest hospital, which is one hour away. He also built a new police station and donated a motorcycle for the city's police officers, who previously had to walk.
  • Annually bringing dentists, optometrists and other volunteer doctors, along with donated equipment and medicine, to his hometown clinic, providing checkups, medicine and eyewear.
  • Purchasing wheelchairs, crutches, walkers and canes for elderly and disabled residents of his hometown.
  • Leading his Boomstick23 Foundation in establishing a new education and technical center to help the youth of Las Matas De Santa Cruz advance their employability by completing their high school education online, learning different trades such as carpentry/electrical, and how better to use farmland to produce crops.
  • Assisting the Healing Venezuela initiative, which helps 2,000 Venezuelan newborns annually receive life-sustaining nourishment during their first year (a 400% increase since Cruz's involvement).
  • Raising funds through the Big League Impact ALL WIN campaign in 2019, impacting the Education Center in the Monte Cristi province, Dominican Republic.
  • Engaging with Twin Cities area youth, including hosting a vitilla clinic with Twins RBI All-Stars in 2019.

"It's hard to describe the monumental impact that Nelson Cruz had — and still has — on the Minnesota Twins organization," said club President and CEO Dave St. Peter. "His leadership, professionalism and elite play made us better on the field, while his work in the community has improved the lives of innumerable people. We are in awe of all Nellie accomplished during his time in Minnesota, and truly grateful for his efforts. Nelson Cruz will always have a special place in Twins Territory."

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