Even though it’s been 50 years since Roberto Clemente died tragically trying to deliver food and aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua, his legacy lives on. The amazingly talented baseball player was just as dedicated to helping others if not more than baseball.
Stories of his impact were seen around the country on Roberto Clemente Day on Sept. 15 and in seeing each team’s Roberto Clemente Award nominee, including Kyle Freeland for the Rockies. Freeland earned his first nomination for the remarkable work he does partnering with Special Olympics Colorado. He coached clinics at Special Olympics Colorado fantasy camp and attends various events each year with his wife, Ashley. He also runs fundraisers like raffling off his Special Olympics-inspired practice glove, batting practice tickets, and more.
Our 2022 Roberto Clemente Award nominee: @KFREE_21— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 8, 2022
Freeland is nominated for his work with @SpecOlympicsCO including camps for kids with intellectual disabilities, auctions, and so much more! pic.twitter.com/ZTxTeoMdjE
Even though the wins haven’t come often on the field this year, it hasn’t stopped other Rockies from doing service off of the field. One of the brightest spots in that list is Daniel Bard, who beyond recording his 32nd save to move up to No. 6 on the Rockies single-season saves leaderboard, is using his success on the field to help kids facing food insecurity.
Bard pledged to donate $300 for each one of his strikeouts to Fill the Void: Amp the Cause to End Hunger, which “provides $250 gift cards to local neighborhood supermarkets to the most vulnerable and negatively impacted families suffering from hunger and food insecurity due to poverty, economic turmoil, job loss, housing insecurity, the impacts of the Covid-19 and immigration barriers.”
With 62 strikeouts on the year, Bard has now donated $18,300, an impressive number on its own, but one that is doubled to $36,600 because the Colorado Rockies Foundation is matching Bard’s contributions.
A man who often catches those strikeouts, Elias Díaz, is currently hosting a shoe drive for the Elias Díaz Foundation, which collects new shoes to distribute to kids in Venezuela and Colorado. Díaz started this charity when he was with the Pirates to give back to underprivileged children in his hometown of Maracaibo, Venezuela.
In the Gazette, Danielle Allentuck wrote a great feature on Yonathan Daza earlier this season, documenting his challenging childhood when he lost his brother to violence in Venezuela. He supports young baseball teams by donating equipment and uniforms to kids back in his hometown of Caña de Azúcar, in addition to handing out Christmas presents, donating food, and more.
Giving back to the college that gave him his start, C.J. Cron made a “significant philanthropic gift” to the University of Utah baseball program earlier this year. On Wednesday, Connor Joe and Brian Serven visited Children’s Hospital on Wednesday to visit kids and hand out memorabilia and gifts.
A visit from the @Rockies always brings smiles to our patients' faces. The smiles are even bigger when they're handing out autographed hats and bringing Nintendo Switches, courtesy of @StarlightUS. pic.twitter.com/WbkebfZsI2— Children's Hospital Colorado (@ChildrensColo) September 21, 2022
These are just some examples of how Rockies players are giving back and continuing Clemente’s legacy. The Hall of Famer famously said, “If you have a chance to accomplish something that will make things better for people coming behind you, and you don’t do that, you are wasting your time on this Earth.”
As an organization, the Rockies host annual events like a book drive, Charity Night, and the 50/50 Raffle, as well as programs like Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI). They also support local charities through the Colorado Rockies Foundation.
With large followings, a big platform, and money, many sports teams make huge impacts in their communities. For example, the Denver Broncos website has a robust community website where fans can find videos of players talking about why they support the causes they do, recent news on events and programs, and even a whole page listing players that have their own foundations. They even release an annual report on the organization’s community impact. In 2021, the PDF with their mission statement, program spotlights, stats, and photos of the organization's staff and players in the community is 50 pages long.
There’s lots of good work happening because of the Rockies, and some information is available on their community website, but more publicity might help draw more attention and support for the players’ causes. It would be cool to see a place where fans could learn about each player’s contributions. While the record can be frustrating, this could help fans remember the good the Rockies do.
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Jack Etkin did a deep dive on the adjustments made by Michael Toglia at the direction of Rockies Minor League Hitting Coordinator Darin Everson that helped the 2019 first-round draft pick improve his stance, speed through Triple-A, and make his debut in MLB on Aug. 30. Everson noticed that Toglia was missing pitches in the zone and wasn’t making good contact. A slight change in the placement of his back foot, moving it open toward the catcher, proved to be a game changer. It took over two weeks of miserable results at the plate before Toglia discovered the new stance and not only started hitting for average, but for power as well.
On The Farm
Brenton Doyle hit a two-run triple and then Carlos Pérez brought him home with his 29th homer of the year in a four-run fourth inning that was enough to carry Albuquerque to victory on Thursday night.
That's our Power Hitter of the Year! Carlos Pérez launches his 29th blast this season!— Albuquerque Isotopes (@ABQTopes) September 23, 2022
M3: Isotopes 4, Space Cowboys 0 pic.twitter.com/XmlKP9WIKV
Wynton Bernard went 2-for-3 with a run scored, Pérez also finished with two hits, and Coco Montes added a hit and scored a run for the Isotopes. Karl Kauffman improved to 4-4 on the season after giving up only two runs on three hits — including a two-run homer — with four walks in six innings. He also totaled seven strikeouts in the win, helping the Albuquerque team hit the 1,136 strikeout mark on the season, which set a new team record. Zach Lee struck out two in the ninth, and despite giving up one hit, held on for his 11th save of the season.
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