Anthony Rizzo wins Clemente Award

October 28, 2017

Anthony Rizzo’s charitable contributions and involvement with pediatric cancer patients earned him baseball’s coveted Roberto Clemente Award for 2017.

The award, named after the Pirates’ Hall of Fame outfielder, is presented annually to the Major League Baseball player who best represents the game through “extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions” on and off the field.

A survivor of Hodgkin lymphoma early in his professional career, Rizzo, 28, created the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation to support children battling cancer and their families, as well as to fund cancer research.

“Obviously with what Roberto did, he kind of set the bar for all athletes, especially baseball players, in all of his charitable work, everything he did giving back,” Rizzo said. “To be a part of this award and (included among) all the past winners, it’s insane to see where our foundation has come from and so humbled to be part of this.”

Rizzo is the third Cubs player to receive the award, following Rick Sutcliffe (1987) and Sammy Sosa (1998), and the first from Chicago since White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko was a co-winner in 2014.

Rizzo thanked Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts for “setting the tone” for players to get involved in charitable endeavors. His foundation committed more than $4 million in 2017 alone to establish the Hope 44 program at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and he has been a fixture there over the last five years visiting with children battling the disease.

Rizzo is also involved with cancer centers at the University of Miami Health System and the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., as well as with Gilda’s Club Chicago.

At Lurie’s, Rizzo frequently visits the children in the infusion center where they receive chemotherapy. Allison Paresi, a registered nurse in the oncology unit, said Rizzo’s visits are important for young patients as they go through treatments.

“Truly what Anthony gives to these kids is inspiration,” Paresi said. “Inspiration knowing that he was in their shoes, literally, not that many years ago, and how he and his family got through it. He was able to overcome it and survive, and now he’s a professional baseball player thriving in his career and in his life.

“And he’s really a real guy. He comes in here and he gets down with the youngest of kids. He holds the little kids, shakes hands and has heartfelt conversations with the older teenagers. Some of my patients who play baseball, they can relate to him, and some are the same age he was when he went through his treatment.”