St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina

(Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports)

Yadi Wins 2018 Roberto Clemente Award

Clemente's wife, Veera Clemente, personally voted for Molina, who was also the winner "by a very large margin" of the online fan vote.

October 24, 2018 - 1:45 pm
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina will be honored before Game 2 of the World Series, Wednesday night as the recipient of the 2018 Roberto Clemente Award.   

Molina received the most votes among 30 finalists by a blue-ribbon panel that includes individuals connected to the game. Clemente's wife, Veera Clemente personally voted for him and he was the winner "by a very large margin" of the online fan vote. He spoke to KMOX and a select group of media members via a conference call from Columbia, Tuesday afternoon. 

Hello fans, Yadi Molina here. I am so sorry I could’t be there to accept the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award in person, but I am currently in Colombia managing the next generation of Puerto Rican baseball stars on the under-23 national team playing in the Baseball World Cup. I tried my hardest to be there in person, but the travel was just impossible, so I sent my lovely wife and kids to be there for me. This award means more to me than I can express. As a native Puerto Rican, Roberto Clemente was everything I ever wanted to be growing up. He loved the game. He loved his island. He loved people. I pride myself in all of those things. So for me when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last year, I knew I wanted to make him and my island proud by serving any way that I could. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the Cardinals organization for nominating me, to MLB for recognizing the great Roberto Clemente year after year, and of course to the fans for supporting me and my foundation’s relief efforts this year. I wish I could be there, but just know that this honor is one of the proudest of my life. Good luck to the Dodgers and Red Sox for a great World Series! Thank you all! y en español ... Puerto Rico Te Amo!! Gracias a todos . mis exitos son todos de ustedes !! Graciasss los amo

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"It's just a great honor for me and for my family," Molina says. "Roberto Clemente was one of my heroes back in the day and still is one of my heroes now."

Molina says his dad once practiced with Clemente in Puerto Rico and his father was the one who helped instill in his sons what kind of baseball player and person Clemente was. 

"Dad told me once, 'Hey, you know Roberto Clemente is a good player, right?' And I was like, 'Yeah, he's one of the greatest.'" Molina says. "(His dad replied) 'He's even better outside of the lines.'"

Molina has been in Colombia this week, as manager of Puerto Rico's youth national baseball team for the U-23 Baseball World Cup. His brother's Bengie and Jose are also coaches of the team, and Bengie shared his congrats for his brother early Wednesday: 

The Cardinals have more Roberto Clemente Award winners than any organization in baseball, now with five recipients: Carlos Beltran (2013), Albert Pujols (2008), Ozzie Smith (1995), Lou Brock (1975) and Molina (2018). Molina is also just the third Puerto Rico-born player to win the award, joining Beltran and Carlos Delagdo (2006).

The concept of honoring Major League players for their philanthropic work was created in 1971 as the Commissioner's Award. The recognition was renamed the Roberto Clemente Award in '73 in honor of the Hall of Famer and 15-time All-Star who died in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972, while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

Related story: What This Roberto Clemente Award Nomination Means to Yadier Molina

After the 2017 season ended for Molina, he was on a flight to his hometown to hand deliver supplies and donations made by his charity, Foundation 4. His home of Bayamon, Puerto Rico was in the path of the 2017 hurricane that killed more than 100 people in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and other countries. 

He described his level of exhaustion after 14 days straight of working, typically on just five hours of sleep per night, to help the people of Puerto Rico.

"I just felt after that like, 'Oh my God.' I had to take like two days off because I couldn't get up from bed," Molina says.

Molina and his foundation have helped raise more than $800,000 to provide aid in Puerto Rico. He and his family have picked up debris, moved fallen trees, cleared roads, replaced roofs and handed out provisions to thousands living in the poorest and hardest hit areas.

"We didn't do anything in thinking about this award, but just to receive this award makes us proud," Molina says. "After all we did down there in Puerto Rico it's just a good feeling. I want to send to the Clemente family all the support I can." 

Molina describes Clemente, who was also born in Puerto Rico, as a "legend" of his home country. Some even thought of him as their nation's president, Molina says. 

He has continued to donate towards a $1.5 million refurbishment of a local baseball stadium, provide scholarships and support an amateur baseball team in his home country.

@ymfundacion4

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Related story: Cardinals, Cubs Partner With Molina To Help Puerto Rico Hurricane Victims

All 30 MLB team nominated one player as finalist, then the winner is selected via a blue-ribbon panel that includes individuals connected to the game. The blue-ribbon panel includes Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr., representatives from MLB-affiliated networks (MLB Network, FOX Sports, ESPN and TBS) and MLB.com, as well as Vera Clemente (the late Roberto's wife & MLB goodwill ambassador).  There was also an online fan vote that factored in the selection process.