Albert Pujols is a perennial .300 hitter, a perennial 30-home run man, a perennial 100-RBI producer. He's also a perennial nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, and that means every bit as much to the Cardinals' slugger.
Pujols is the Cardinals' 2011 nominee, marking the eighth time he's been so honored, and the seventh in a row. He was nominated in 2003, and every season since '05. He's also a former winner of the award, having brought it home in '08.
"It's good to accomplish great things in baseball, but at the end that's the way that you want to be remembered," Pujols said. "You have to give your time to care about your community and to help out others."
The Clemente Award has been given since 1972 in recognition of the player "who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team." It was initially known as the Commissioner's Award, but was renamed in 1973 after Clemente's untimely death.
Pujols announced the formation of the Pujols Family Foundation in 2005, and the foundation has been on an upward trajectory ever since. It has two primary missions: to help out people who have Down Syndrome in the St. Louis area, and to provide for underprivileged youth in Pujols' native Dominican Republic. He's now an American citizen, but his ties to the Dominican remain strong.
A delegation from the foundation has been in the Dominican just this week, providing dental care for kids there. Later in 2011, Pujols and former teammate Mike Matheny plan to take a baseball team to the D.R. to play against kids down there.
Sept. 14 is Roberto Clemente Day throughout baseball. The Cardinals will be in Pittsburgh, where Clemente made his name as a ballplayer. After they come home, Pujols will be recognized at Busch Stadium.
"We all have a job to do, and that's to go out there and play baseball and to represent the organization," he said. "But at the same time we have a responsibility too, and that's to be professional and to be able to touch lives on and off the field. That's something that I really focus on."
All 30 nominees have immersed themselves in the type of humanitarian and community efforts that distinguished the life of Clemente, a life that ended at age 38 on New Year's Eve 1972, when the plane he was using to deliver aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims crashed.
Fans will once again have the opportunity to participate in the selection of the national winner. They can cast votes for any of the 30 club nominees through Oct. 9.
The fan-ballot winner 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, widow of the Hall of Fame right fielder.
Voting fans also will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip for four to the 2011 World Series to see the national winner presented with the Roberto Clemente Award.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.