Wilson nominated for Clemente Award
Shortstop hopes to continue his charity work in Pittsburgh
Jack Wilson calls his community service work "an obligation" and "an expectation." If only all ballplayers would follow in his footsteps.
The longest-tenured Pirates player is hopeful that if this, in fact, marks his final season with the team, he has left a lasting legacy on the field. Not up for debate, though, is the indelible mark Wilson has left in the community.
Following in the footsteps of Pirates great Roberto Clemente, Wilson continues to spend countless hours giving back to the Pittsburgh community that he says has given so much to him. And as a result, Wilson has been nominated for The Roberto Clemente Award, presented by Chevrolet.
The award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team. It is named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder whose spirit and goodwill will always be remembered. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972.
This marks the fourth straight year Wilson has been chosen as the nominee for the league-wide award.
"For me, it's something that I think I must do because it's a way for me to pay back a city that took me in when I was 22 and has seen me go from a 22-year-old to a 30-year-old with three kids," Wilson said. "Every phase of my life as an adult has been through Pittsburgh. And I'm very proud to be a Pittsburgh native. That's one of the ways that I can show my appreciation."
Fans can participate in the selection process of the overall winner of the award now through Oct. 5. The fan ballot winner will be tallied as one vote among those cast by a special selection panel of baseball dignitaries and media members. The panel includes MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, widow of the Pirates' Hall of Fame right fielder. The winner will be announced during the World Series.
Houston's Craig Biggio was the 2007 award winner.
Though Wilson's offerings to the Pittsburgh community are numerous, his "Bowling with the Bucs" event remains his marquee contribution. For the fourth straight year, Wilson and his wife, Julie, hosted the bowling event, which pairs Pirates players with fans in order to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia.
The event raised $23,000 this year, upping the four-year total to $67,000. More than 22 wishes have been granted to children using that money.
Wilson held the event this year despite having the initial plans interrupted by the calf injury he sustained the first week of the season. The event was scheduled to take place in May, but at the time, Wilson was rehabbing in Bradenton, Fla. Refusing to cancel the event, Wilson opted to reschedule it for the earliest possible date in June.
"We were going to keep it going even though we had to postpone it," Wilson said. "It worked out perfect and was another great year."
Wilson's charitable contributions don't stop there. The shortstop personally donated $100,000 to the Pittsburgh Youth Network charity and also continues to run his charity, Christ First, Inc., in California.
Rarely does one of his teammates host a charity event without Wilson's presence. He participated in the PLAY Campaign earlier this year, during which he helped conduct skill drills. Wilson also made his eighth caravan trip with the team over the winter.
As for the future, Wilson said community service will continue to be as much a requirement for him as showing up at the ballpark every day. But he knows the reality of his situation as well. He knows he may be an expendable piece on a club in a rebuilding mode.
Wilson's only desire, though, is that regardless of whether or not he is in Pittsburgh next season, the work continues.
"We're very excited about continuing to work here, and we'll see what happens," Wilson said. "Bowling with the Bucs, maybe somebody can take it over if I'm not back, though hopefully I'll still be here to do it again."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.