MILWAUKEE -- Brewers reliever LaTroy Hawkins is among the legion of big leaguers who totes an iPad everywhere he goes. On the cover is a sticker with the No. 21, in tribute to Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente -- a player Hawkins respects as much for off-the-field pursuits as what he accomplished on the diamond. "Just think of how he died, what he was doing," Hawkins said. Clemente was delivering aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims when he died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972. He was 38.
Major League Baseball honors that legacy with the Roberto Clemente Award, presented annually to a player who best represents the game of baseball through sportsmanship, community involvement and positive contributions to their clubs. Hawkins, born 10 days before Clemente's death, is the Brewers' nominee for the award. All 30 nominees have immersed themselves in the type of humanitarian and community efforts that distinguished the life of Clemente, and 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. "The Bible says, 'To whom much is given, much is required,'" Hawkins said. "It's important for me to give back, especially to the communities that look like my community did growing up [in Gary, Ind.]. You have to give kids a chance to have success. Some of the kids' futures in those urban areas just don't look bright." Among Hawkins' specific community endeavors, he has supported the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Sharp Literacy, Inc., Team Smile Dental Clinic, Girlfriends Health Guide and the Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative. He is a member of Volunteers of America, where he has helped to rebuild homes, serve meals and hand out necessities following recent hurricanes in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Hawkins has been involved with Lifeline, a non-profit organization for at-risk children and families in Gary, and last November, he distributed 300 turkeys at Thanksgiving to families there. Hawkins and his wife, Anita, contributed $50,000 this season to Brewers Community Foundation, the club's official charity, to support activities and programs targeted to youth recreation, scholarships and education throughout Wisconsin. Of that total, $15,000 went to Sharp Literacy, Inc., a program that enhances literacy through the visual arts and art history. Another $20,000 was split between Milwaukee's local RBI league and the Team Smile Dental Clinic. More than 200 children received free dental health education, screening and treatment at Miller Park thanks to that gift. "We only had two kids cry," Hawkins said proudly. "Most were running around everywhere, with big smiles on their faces." He wants children to know, "We care about you. Because it's tough out there. You try to make a dent, and if you reach one or two of those kids, it's satisfying. I'd love for some of the kids to say, 'I want to grow up and be like LaTroy.'" Hawkins was reminded of Clemente's philanthropic efforts during the Brewers' most recent trip to Pittsburgh, when a friend of infielder (and Pittsburgh native) Josh Wilson led a group on a tour of the private Clemente Museum there. Hawkins briefly wore Clemente's No. 21 in New York as a tribute, but said he caught backlash from Yankees fans who didn't like seeing a player in a number that once belonged to Paul O'Neill. So he switched to No. 22, and later to No. 32 upon signing with the Brewers.