Fans are encouraged to vote for Willingham to receive the National Award online
Washington Nationals Outfielder Josh Willingham was named the team's 2010 nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet, the Nationals announced today.
RC dayWillingham is one of the 30 Club nominees who are finalists for the national award, which is given annually to the Major League Baseball player who combines a dedication to giving back to the community with outstanding skills on the baseball field. Tomorrow will mark the ninth annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by Major League Baseball to honor Clemente's legacy and to officially recognize local Club nominees of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet.
The Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet recognizes players who best represent the game of baseball through sportsmanship, community involvement and positive contributions to their Clubs. The award is named for the 12-time All-Star and Hall of Famer who died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The award pays tribute to Clemente's achievements and character by recognizing talented current players who truly understand the value of helping others.
Since joining the Nationals in 2009, Willingham has devoted much of his time to enhancing the foundation he created with his wife Ginger that same year. The Josh Willingham Foundation is committed to providing life-changing opportunities and experiences to underserved children in the communities in which the couple has lived throughout Josh's career, primarily focusing on their hometown of Florence, Alabama. The foundation's first project, for instance, involved building a public playground in Florence. Since its inception, Willingham has been actively involved in the organization and hosted the first major fundraiser - a charity golf tournament in Alabama - in the fall of 2009.
In addition to his individual efforts, Willingham has made a commitment to giving back to the military community in and around Washington, D.C. In partnership with the USO, the Nationals launched the "Me & a Friend" program on July 4 to give military kids the opportunity to enjoy a baseball game with their friends, and Willingham volunteered to stay on the field after the game to greet the children who attended as they ran the bases. He also assisted USO volunteers in stuffing care packages for soldiers stationed overseas and has made special trips to local military hospitals (Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center) to visit with patients.
Willingham has participated in many team-sanctioned events as well, including the 2009 and 2010 Winter Caravan, during which he traveled to a local elementary school to read to inner-city students and stopped by Children's National Medical Center to visit patients undergoing treatment. He has also attended the annual Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Gala the past two years (2009 and 2010).
"Josh's willingness to give so much of his time to the team's community service efforts on top of his own Foundation commitments is a true testament to his generous spirit and integrity," Nationals President Stan Kasten said. "The Nationals are proud to have Josh serve as our team's nominee for this prestigious award."
The Washington Nationals will host Roberto Clemente Day, on Wednesday, September 8 when they face the New York Mets at 12:35pm. Willingham will be recognized prior to the game in an on-field ceremony that will also feature students from Roberto Clemente Middle School (Germantown, Md.) singing the National Anthem and vignettes highlighting Clemente's greatest moments.