Since 1971, the Roberto Clemente Award has been given to those players that best “exemplify the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and contribution to his team,” doing so in a manner that Clemente did himself while he was alive. The recipient of this award is one who really performs both on and off the baseball field.
For the Philadelphia Phillies and for baseball in general, Chase Utley is the perfect example. And because of his work through the Utley Foundation, he deserves to win the award.
For nearly a decade, Utley has been as involved in the community as he has been on the baseball diamond. His main work has been with animals and preventing animal cruelty, something that is truly close to his heart.
In 2008, Utley and wife Jen hosted their first inaugural All-Star Animals Night, with all benefits going to the Pennsylvania SPCA. Since they began the event, Utley and his wife have raised a staggering $2 million, including close to $400,000 this year. In 2011, the Utley Foundation was created to bring awareness to animal cruelty and to educate the public about its existence.
But Utley’s contributions to community are not just extended to his furry friends, as he is also very involved in helping children in need.
Since 2007, Utley has spent $20,000 annually to purchase season tickets to the Phillies which he donates to children and their families from St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. In addition, Utley is the Chairman of the Phillies Jr. RBI and RBI League programs.
As Phillies president David Montgomery said, “Chase Utley epitomizes a professional athlete.”
Obviously all of the nominees are deserving of winning the award, but Utley’s contributions to community have really been telling. What he has managed to do to help animals and children in the local area is truly phenomenal. And of course on the field, there is no other baseball player like Utley.
He deserves to have his name on this distinguished list as he truly does represent everything that Clemente and this award are all about.
Marilee Gallagher is a baseball writer for RantSports.com. You can follow her on Twitter @MGallagher17 like her page on Facebook, or join her network on Google.