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.
As the Twins' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award back in 2006, Cuddyer was honored to have been linked to a man like Clemente.
"I take more pride in that than an on-the-field award," Cuddyer said. "To be able to be associated with an award for somebody like Roberto Clemente, the humanitarian that he was, it's awesome. Words can't describe how it feels personally to have something like that."
Since then, Cuddyer has only increased his charity work and presence within the community and that includes his role with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities. Cuddyer has been one of the spokesmen for the charity for the past few seasons, representing them in local public service announcements and assisting the local clubs in its numerous fundraisers.
Last year, he began his own fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities called the "Michael Cuddyer Celebrity Waiter Dinner." It took place at Morton's steakhouse in Minneapolis with many of his teammates and their wives serving as waiters. The event raised more than $30,000 in its inaugural year and was held again this year in mid-August.
As part of his association with Boys & Girls Clubs, the Twins outfielder served as the emcee at the charity's annual FSN North Kids in the City fundraiser. He also helped to purchase gloves for local Boys & Girls Clubs members by signing autographs at a Dick's Sporting Goods.
But Cuddyer's reach extends beyond just the one charity. He continues to serve on the board of directors of the Twins Community Fund. As a board member, Cuddyer helps direct grant and program funds to worthy organizations and assists in organizing Twins' players to participate in fundraisers for the organizations.
The Twins outfielder has also established a community ticket program called Cuddy's Buddies, providing Twins game tickets to thousands of economically disadvantaged youth from Minneapolis and St. Paul. Since 2006, 10,000 youth have attended a Twins game for free because of Cuddyer's contributions.
Cuddyer is also an annual fixture during the Twins Winter Caravan, during which he spends four days traveling the Upper Midwest to visit with various Twins fans and local community groups. It's these types of efforts that earned Cuddyer the 2007 Carl R. Pohlad Award for community service from the Twins organization.
Fans can participate in the selection process of the overall winner of the 2008 Roberto Clemente 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 whose spirit and goodwill always will be remembered. The winner will be announced during the World Series.
Last year's winner of the award was the Astros' Craig Biggio. Former Twins outfielder and Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett also took home the award back in 1996.