ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Even if the Cardinals do not win the World Series, Carlos Beltran will be taking home quite a prize.
Beltran was named the winner of baseball’s Roberto Clemente award Saturday night before Game 3 of the World Series. The award honors the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.
Beltran is a deserving winner on all sides. On the field, he made his eighth All-Star team, led the Cardinals with 24 home runs while hitting .29 and reached the World Series for the first time in his 16-year career.
But those contributions pale next to what Beltran has accomplished in his — and Clemente’s — Puerto Rican homeland. This summer, the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy graduated its first class, of 43. Beltran founded, largely funds and helps run the three-year-old academy through his Carlos Beltran Foundation. He has spent more than $4 million on the school for 10th, 11th and 12th graders, according to MLB.
When he is home during the off-season, Beltran reports to the school on a regular basis.
“When I’m there, I’m at the school every day,” he said in an interview earlier this summer. “If there is a kid not doing good in academics, I call him in my office. I want to help them.”
He sees himself not as a taskmaster but as someone the young men can talk to.
“I want you have to do things the right way, but I want to be a friend,” he said. “I want to be available. I want them to be happy. That is my main priority.”
Beltran even scheduled the graduation ceremonies on a Cardinals off day so he could attend.
Among his other community endeavors, Beltran sponsored a “Night in Old San Juan” this summer in St. Louis to fund scholarships for St. Louis-area Latinos.
Asked at a news conference before Game 3 how this award ranks with his accomplishments in the game, Beltran answered, “First.”
So far, anyway.
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