Major League Baseball today announced that Will Smith was named the Atlanta Braves' 2021 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, baseball's most prestigious individual honor for Major Leaguers.
The Roberto Clemente Award is the annual recognition of a Major League player who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.
As part of the annual program, each MLB Club nominates one player to be considered for the league-wide Award in tribute to Clemente's achievements and character. Will Smith is one of the 30 Club nominees for the annual award.
Will Smith has been involved in the Braves Country community, serving at a local animal shelter and helping with homeless pet adoptions since joining the team in fall 2019. When his hometown of Newnan was devastated by a tornado in March 2021, Smith turned to the Atlanta Braves and his teammates for help. Newnan High School was drastically affected by the storm, with their baseball field and locker room suddenly rendered completely unusable. The Atlanta Braves hosted the Newnan High School baseball team's "Senior Night," providing an opportunity for the team to recognize the seniors and give them a proper sendoff. Families, friends, and community members all gathered at Truist Park on April 21 as Newnan High School took on Pebblebrook High School in the final game of their regular high school baseball season.
In addition to the special experience shared at the ballpark, Smith rallied the Braves clubhouse around an online charity auction to benefit local charities in Coweta County. His generosity and passion to provide relief for his neighbors in Newnan led to a $38,000 donation to the Coweta Community Foundation and Backpack Buddies of Georgia. These grants have provided ongoing funding for hotel accommodations and long-term housing solutions for dislocated disaster victims, youth programs for children affected by the tornado, food and family support programs, and more.
"It is an honor to be named the Braves' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award," said Braves pitcher Will Smith. "I'm humbled to be associated with such great nominees from across the league, and proud of the work my teammates and players around Major League Baseball have done to better their communities."
Wednesday, Sept. 15 marks the 20th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by Major League Baseball to honor Clemente's legacy as a humanitarian and to formally acknowledge Club nominees of the Roberto Clemente Award. As part of the league-wide celebration, the Roberto Clemente Day logo will appear on the bases and official dugout lineup cards and a special tribute video will be played in ballparks. Will Smith will be recognized that day in a pregame ceremony ahead of the Braves hosting the Colorado Rockies at Truist Park.
The league-wide winner of the Roberto Clemente Award will be selected via a blue ribbon panel, including Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr., representatives from MLB-affiliated networks (MLB Network, FOX Sports, ESPN and TBS), MLB.com, as well as Roberto's children, Enrique, Luis and Roberto Clemente Jr. Beginning today, fans can vote for the Roberto Clemente Award via mlb.com/clemente21.
The site will feature bios of each of the nominees and will allow fans to vote until the end of the season on Sunday, Oct. 3. The winner of the fan vote will count as one vote among those cast by the blue ribbon panel.
The concept of honoring Major League players for their philanthropic work was created in 1971 as the "Commissioner's Award." The recognition was renamed to the "Roberto Clemente Award" in 1973 in honor of the Hall of Famer and 15-time All-Star who died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.