It’s been a great year for Ryan Howard on the field. He leads the Philadelphia Phillies with 33 home runs and 112 RBI. Howard has guided the Phillies to playoff a berth along with the best record in baseball.
The Phillies first baseman has also done well off the field. Major League Baseball recently announced that Howard was named the 2011 nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award.
Howard is one of the 30 club finalists for the annual award, which recognizes a Major League Baseball player who best represents the game through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.
The award pays tribute to Clemente’s achievements and character by recognizing current players who truly understand the value of helping others. It is named for the 12-time MLB all-star and Hall of Famer who died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
The Ryan Howard Foundation, which was launched in 2009, has a mission of improving the quality of life for others, in particular for disadvantaged youth and families. This is achieved primarily through the development and implementation of programs that advance education, health and fitness, and social economic status. The foundation currently helps to fund programs in both the Philadelphia and St. Louis areas.
One of the foundation’s first initiatives was to award a $50,000 grant to Hunting Park in North Philadelphia, which is being used to restore a baseball diamond. When the project broke ground in 2010, Howard was inspired to add another $100,000 to his previous donation. He was there when the teams stepped onto a neighboring field using $10,000 of equipment and uniforms donated by the Phillies slugger and Howard is as excited as the players, coaches and families for the project’s completion.
Howard also believes that while the children should enjoy playing baseball, they should also put an emphasis on school.
“I still remember seeing my dad graduate. It meant so much to him and to be able to do that and it meant so much to me,” Howard said. “Growing up, education was very, very important. If you didn’t get your homework done you couldn’t play sports.”
It is the emphasis on education within his family that propelled the foundation to develop a relationship with the United Negro College Fund to provide promising ingoing freshman pursuing higher education at a four-year accredited institution with financial assistance. In 2010, the foundation awarded $90,000 in scholarships to college-bound students in the Philadelphia and St. Louis metropolitan areas and an additional $90,000 will be awarded for the 2011–12 school year.
The foundation held the inaugural Celebrity Servers fundraiser that raised $116,000 to benefit the foundations good works. This season’s event, held July 21, raised nearly $200,000.
Howard received an honorary badge from the Philadelphia Police Athletic League during “PAL Night at the Phillies” in August 2008, recognizing his community service. He will be recognized on Sept. 19 on the field at Citizens Bank Park. In addition to being honored as the club’s nominee, he will also receive the Phillies Community Service Award.
All fans are encouraged to participate in the selection process for the national award recipient by visiting www.chevybaseball.com/clemente, a site powered by MLB.com and created specifically for the award to vote for one of the 30 club nominees. The voting ends on October 9.
Contact staff writer Donald Hunt at (215) 893-5719 or email@example.com.