As the greatest season of his 10-year KC Royals career winds down, Salvador Perez has received an honor that may be greater than any he might earn for his astonishing on-field work in 2021.
The Royals’ All-Star catcher was nominated earlier this week for Major League Baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award, given each year to the player “who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”
But just what would it mean for Perez to win the award honoring one of baseball’s great players and persons?
Clemente, a Hall of Famer, was initially signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954, but they ended up leaving him off their major league roster and he was picked up in the Rule 5 draft by the team most fans most remember him for—the Pittsburgh Pirates—in 1954.
Although he was quiet throughout his first five seasons, Clemente broke through in 1960 when he slashed .314/.357/.458 with 16 home runs, 94 RBIs, and a 121 OPS+.
Clemente was named to his first of 15 All-Star Games that year, and helped the Pirates win the World Series by hitting .310 with three RBIs in seven games against the Yankees. He was also instrumental in Pittsburgh’s 1971 World Series title when he hit .414 with four RBIs and two home runs against the Orioles.
Clemente’s accolades also include 12 Gold Glove Awards, the 1966 National League MVP, and four National League batting titles. In his career, the right fielder batted .317 with 240 homers, 621 walks, 1,305 RBIs, 83 stolen bases, and 1,416 runs scored.
He reached his 3,000th career hit late in the 1972 season. Unfortunately, that season would sadly be his last—he was helping with Nicaragua earthquake relief when the plane he was on went down near Puerto Rico. His body wasn’t ever found. Clemente was elected to the Hall of Fame the very next year.
Clemente’s philanthropy defined what type of man he was—charitable and caring of others. As Perez himself told The Kansas City Star’s Lynn Worthy:
"“That’s what made him Roberto Clemente. He took care of people, helped people, he liked to have fun with the fans. He always took care of people. He was a humble guy from Puerto Rico, Carolina. I thank God for being nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award.”"
Why the KC Royals’ Salvador Perez has been nominated for the great honor.
Obviously, being nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award is a tremendous honor. And just like so many other players across the majors, Perez has done important charitable work for his community.
For example, when he signed a contract-extension in 2016, Perez donated $1 million to support KC’s Urban Youth Academy.
And as mlb.com described it in detail recently, Perez’s off-field work is extensive and varied. He regularly supports teachers and education. He donates money and brought a number of teachers to a Kauffman Stadium game this year, where they had a suite and conferred with Royals principal owner John Sherman. He also aided Teach for America by giving it several hundred bats and balls for KC area students. He’s starting English as a Second Language programming, helps children with cancer, and helps spread awareness of ALS. And those are just a few examples of his efforts.
Whether Perez ends up winning the Roberto Clemente Award or not, KC Royals fans know what Perez means to Kansas City on and off the field.
KC Royals catcher Salvador Perez has been nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award, a great honor across the baseball community.