Ordonez earns Clemente nomination
Award presented annually for contributions to community
DETROIT -- Magglio Ordonez finished as the runner-up in American League MVP voting last season. This year he has proven to be a pretty valuable person in the Detroit community.
Along with all the on-field honors Ordonez has received as a Tiger comes some off-field recognition, as he has been named as the club's nominee for Major League Baseball's Roberto Clemente Award, handed out annually for community service. It's the first such honor for Ordonez, whose fourth season in Detroit reflected a veteran player growing comfortable in his surroundings and making a concerted effort to give back.
The award, presented by Chevrolet, recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and individual contribution to a team. It is named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder, whose spirit and goodwill will always be remembered. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972.
Recent winners include former Houston Astros star Craig Biggio, who received last year's honor, Carlos Delgado, John Smoltz, Edgar Martinez, Willie Mays and Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline.
Ordonez came to Detroit after the 2004 season, already a star player after establishing his credentials in Chicago. With a multi-year free-agent contract, he set up a plan upon the signing to take $100,000 for each season of his deal and designate it for community initiatives supporting education and youth baseball, including the Play Baseball Detroit! program, which helps foster interest and create opportunities for kids to play baseball in the city.
The longer he has been in Detroit, the more he has come to view it as a second home, and he has become more well known recently for giving back. The cornerstone of his community work came this past offseason, when he teamed up with the Detroit Tigers Foundation and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan to establish a scholarship fund.
The Ordonez Family Scholarship will be awarded each year to a graduating high school senior from the predominantly Hispanic area of Southwest Detroit. He and the Tigers announced the scholarship in January during a ceremony at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, complete with a talk to local children and questions from fans.
"I have to give something back to the community," Ordonez said at the time. "People here in Detroit, they've been really nice to me. They've supported me the last three years. It's a way I can do something for the fans and the people here in Detroit.
"I'm really happy. The more that I know the city, the more that I know the state of Michigan, I like it even more every year."
Ordonez's efforts continued into the season. He and his wife, Dagly, served as celebrity baristas at an area Starbucks to help raise more than $10,000 in support of baseball and softball field renovations in greater Detroit. Ordonez has committed the funding to renovate at least three baseball fields with Think Detroit PAL at St. Hedwig Recreation Center in southwest Detroit.
In addition, Ordonez has been a regular participant in the club's annual Fiesta Tigres! celebration, purchasing tickets for Latin American children and their families to allow them to attend the Tigers' annual celebration of Hispanic and Latin players and the contributions they've made to the game of baseball in America.
The Southwest Detroit Business Association recently recognized Ordonez for his commitment to the city's Hispanic community.
Ordonez also has been active in the Tigers' Dreams Come True Program, which allows fans with life-threatening medical problems to come to Comerica Park and meet the team.
Fans can participate in the selection process of the overall winner through Oct. 5. The fans' selection 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, the widow of the Pirates' Hall of Fame right fielder. The winner will be announced during the World Series.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.