Team Italy's Anthony Rizzo wins 2017 Roberto Clemente Award

Chicago Cubs' All-Star Italian American first baseman Anthony Rizzo was presented the 2017 Roberto Clemente Award at Minute Maid Park prior to the start of game three of World Series between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers on October 27, 2017. The Roberto Clemente Award, Major League Baseball’s prestigious award that recognizes sportsmanship, community involvement and positive contributions on and off the field, is given annually to a player who demonstrates the values Clemente displayed in his commitment to community and understanding the value of helping others. Each of the 30 MLB clubs nominate a player, and the winner is announced during the World Series. Although Anthony Rizzo had a one in thirty chance to win the Roberto Clemente Award, it wasn't the first time that the 28-year-old slugger has had to beat the odds. While a prospect in the Red Sox organization during early 2008, Rizzo was diagnosed with limited state classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The Boston front office as well as Red Sox pitching ace Jon Lester, a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor, were supportive of Rizzo in his battle against cancer. By beating this life-threatening disease, the sky was the limit for this young man’s future. Now a cancer survivor himself, Rizzo is an inspirational role model who helps cancer patients and their families through the ongoing efforts of the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, which has raised more than $4 million since its inception in 2012. In 2017 the foundation made a $3.5 million commitment to Lurie Children’s Hospital, the downtown Chicago facility where Rizzo visits with cancer patients regularly. Anthony Rizzo recently granted $250,000 to the University of Miami Health System and the hometown cancer center where he received treatment while battling Hodgkin's lymphoma. Those physical, mental and emotional tests as a Boston Red Sox prospect molded the player into the superstar and fan favorite he is today in Chicago. 

It might have been a long shot at the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago when 2013 Team Italy hitting coach Mike Piazza and Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo spoke about joining forces to help the Italians in the World Baseball Classic. 20130305 WBC amichevoli RIZZO Anthony news (Ratti-FIBS)Both Italian Americans trace their ancestral roots to Sicily, both reside in the Miami area, and both share a passion for baseball. What brought these two even closer together was their unconditional love for family, and their admirable respect for their Italian heritage. By sporting “Italia” on their jerseys and participating in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Piazza and Rizzo proved to be true international baseball ambassadors who have helped grow the game in Italy.  Anthony Rizzo’s contributions to Team Italy made Italian baseball history by helping the team advance to the second round in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Beyond the game of baseball, there is a greater good here in the work that the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation does to serve cancer patients and their families for they are the real winners in the race for a cure to combat this deadly disease. Rizzo is honored to be the recipient of the 2017 Roberto Clemente Award. Rizzo said, "Clemente set the bar for all athletes, especially baseball players, with all of his charitable work and giving back."  Roberto Clemente, a Hall of Fame outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, died on New Year's Eve 1972 during a relief mission to earthquake-damaged Nicaragua, when a plane delivering relief supplies exploded shortly after takeoff and crashed in the Atlantic Ocean. Previous Roberto Clemente Award winners within the last 10 years include Albert PujolsDerek JeterDavid OrtizClayton KershawCarlos Beltran, and Paul Konerko.

by Roberto Angotti