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October 24, 2018

Luis Clemente

Robert Manfred

Wanda Molina

Boston, Massachusetts

FRAN CHARLES: Good evening, everyone. My name is Fran Charles from MLB Network, and it is my pleasure to welcome you all to the official announcement of Major League Baseball's most prestigious individual player honor, the Roberto Clemente Award.

The Roberto Clemente Award pays tribute to the late Hall of Famer's legacy, achievements and character by recognizing a Major League player who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and contributions both on and off the field. MLB has been recognizing Major League players for their philanthropic work since 1971. This special honor was named the Roberto Clemente Award in 1973 to immortalize the 15-time All-Star after he was lost in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972, while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

The original name of this special recognition was the Commissioner's Award. So it is fitting that I now welcome our Commissioner, Rob Manfred, to officially announce this year's Roberto Clemente Award recipient.

COMMISSIONER ROB MANFRED: Thank you, Fran. This is always one of my favorite nights of the year. As Fran said, we regard the Roberto Clemente Award to be baseball's highest honor. It recognizes the combination of on-field excellence and philanthropy and community service, and because of that combination we feel it is perfect in terms of preserving the legacy of Roberto Clemente, one of our greatest, greatest players.

I would like to thank Vera Clemente, Luis, Roberto, the entire Clemente family for being here with us. Obviously their presence makes it easier for us to preserve a legacy that's very, very important to the history of baseball.

This year's winner is special. It's great to have another, I believe, the fifth Puerto Rican to win this award: Yadi Molina, what do you say about his on-field accomplishments? Maybe one of the greatest defensive catchers of all time. He's been an All-Star nine out of the last ten years. He was the cornerstone of two St. Louis Cardinal world championship clubs. And my personal favorite, the last two WBC teams, Puerto Rican teams, were made better at all positions as a result of Yadi's presence.

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, baseball was really at its best. The clubs responded in terms of relief. Clubs like the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Houston Astros flew planeloads of supplies into Puerto Rico. One of our clubs that's here tonight, the Dodgers, made a seven-figure contribution to hurricane relief. But Yadi was really the spearhead in some ways of the efforts in Puerto Rico. There were pallets of supplies that he arranged to be delivered to Puerto Rico.

And I think even more impressive was his individual presence there. He worked many, many long days clearing roads, putting roofs on houses, helping individual people. And when the immediate need started to subside, he turned to fundraising. He had a great dinner that raised about $800,000 for hurricane relief.

So it is my great pleasure to officially announce today the 2018 Roberto Clemente Award winner, Yadi Molina (applause).

FRAN CHARLES: Thank you, Commissioner, Manfred. Roberto Clemente's legendary humanitarian spirit has lived on thanks in part to our next speaker. As the entire family continues to share Roberto's message of giving back through service.

So it is my great pleasure to introduce one of Roberto's three sons, Luis Clemente.

LUIS CLEMENTE: Thank you. We are extremely proud and honored to have Yadi become the fourth or fifth Puerto Rican to win the award. What he represents for the whole country and for all of Latin America is the same spirit that dad had. What he does inside the field and also outside the lines is what exemplifies the goodwill that all of Major League Baseball shows. We're very proud to continue the Clemente legacy, and have mom as the goodwill ambassador for Major League Baseball.

Baseball is definitely the platform to get all the positive message across. And Yadi is an incredible -- I understand in the voting he totally became -- he blew the charts as far as the votes. Mom has a very good eye. I must tell you, the whole process in choosing and electing the player is truly a thorough process, and she reads and sees everything. It's very hard because all of the players that were nominated are doing incredible things. All the clubs take particular pride in having their players be represented. And I think this is something that the family is very proud about the award.

FRAN CHARLES: Thank you, Luis. Appreciate the remarks. And also as Luis and the Commissioner mentioned, also here with us today are Roberto Clemente, Jr. and Roberto Clemente's wife and MLB Goodwill Ambassador, Vera Clemente (applause).

I take a little pride in this, it should also be noted Yadi is now the fifth member of the St. Louis Cardinals to receive the award, joining Hall of Famer Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith and a couple of players who should be joining them in Cooperstown in Albert Pujols and Carlos Beltran. A quick side note, I am from St. Louis.

The Cardinals now have the most Roberto Clemente Award recipients of any MLB club. And as the Commissioner noted, Yadier unfortunately is not here with us tonight as he is managing the Puerto Rican national 23-U down in Colombia. However, here to speak on his behalf is his wife Wanda Molina, who we would like to say a few words on her husband's tremendous recognition.

WANDA MOLINA: Good evening, everybody. He is really sad that he couldn't be here, but he is representing the island in Colombia, and it was kind of a mess to get him here on time. But we're very happy. It's a huge honor. It's the biggest recognition to receive the Roberto Clemente Award, especially for a Puerto Rican. He's our legend and our own hero. And every time your name is next to his, it's wonderful.

FRAN CHARLES: So we're going to open it up here for a couple of questions on Yadier Molina winning the Roberto Clemente Award.

Q. Luis, the specific nature of Yadi's response to a natural disaster, how much did that resonate with your family, given your father's legacy?
LUIS CLEMENTE: Absolutely. Yadi is a great example of what a great man is. And utilizing all his resources, not only just sending -- he could have just sent help or fund, some other organizations, but he was hands on, he went on out there and helped fill whatever was needed. And his passion in doing so, I think exemplifies all the greatness of baseball's goodwill. So he's a great ambassador for baseball and for Puerto Rico, as well.

Q. Commissioner, obviously there was the Indians-Twins series, the Puerto Rico series, and I know Major League Baseball has really invested a lot in the island. How important is Puerto Rico in the big picture for Major League Baseball?
COMMISSIONER ROB MANFRED: Well, the island is really important in terms of our long-term plans. First and most important, it remains a great source of talent. One of the reasons that we picked the Twins and the Indians is that there were obviously a number of players from the island that were there. Their passion for being in Puerto Rico was really important for us. And just in terms of growing the game, an island like Puerto Rico that has baseball as part of its culture is really important to us. There's raw material there that allows us to grow the game.

So I think you'll see baseball back in Puerto Rico on a very regular basis.

FRAN CHARLES: Thank you and congratulations to the entire Molina family. This concludes tonight's news conference. We're going to take a quick photo up on stage, and our dais will depart in preparation for a special pregame ceremony on the field. Thank you, everyone, for coming.

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