By Skip Vaughn, USAG RedstoneOctober 5, 2009
He inherited fame from his father, but he makes his own legacy by helping others.
Roberto Clemente Jr., son of a major league baseball legend, gave a pep talk to an estimated 350 people during Team Redstone's Hispanic American Heritage Month event Sept. 23 in Bob Jones Auditorium.
"My father left a fingerprint in baseball and the whole world," he said. "When I leave this world, I want to say I left a fingerprint in a positive way."
Clemente Jr.'s fingerprint has included founding the Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities or RBI program, aimed at helping at-risk youth through the sport in San Juan. He also established the Roberto Clemente Foundation benefiting children in the Pittsburgh community. In 2002, Clemente Jr. was named honorary chairman for the baseball assistance team annual fund-raising dinner. He is also known for his work with the American Diabetes Association.
He is the oldest of three sons of Pittsburgh Pirates legend Roberto Clemente, the first Latin American player to record 3,000 hits and enter the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. On Dec. 31, 1972, Clemente was killed in a tragic plane crash while taking humanitarian aid to Nicaragua earthquake victims from his native island of Puerto Rico.
"He used baseball as a vehicle to help others," said Clemente Jr., who was 7 when his father died.
Clemente Jr. moved to Bradenton, Fla., from Puerto Rico after graduating high school to attend college. In 1984, he was discovered by a Philadelphia Phillies scout and signed by the organization. Clemente Jr. would play for teams in Phillies, San Diego Padres and Baltimore Orioles organizations before a series of injuries forced him to retire in 1989.
After his professional baseball career was over, Clemente Jr. returned to Puerto Rico to help his mother in her quest to open the Roberto Clemente Sports City and in 1992 he founded the RBI program.
"Make sure whatever you touch you touch in a positive way, so we can all be proud," he said.
In October at the World Series, where major league baseball will present its annual Roberto Clemente Award, his mother Vera will be recognized as baseball's first ambassador. The Roberto Clemente Award is given each year to a player who demonstrates the values Clemente displayed in his commitment to community and understanding the value of helping others.
"Fingerprint," Clemente Jr. said in closing. "Positive, don't stop. Thank you."
After the program, he had a surprise reunion with his cousin Jorge F. Clemente, who works in the Garrison's Directorate of Logistics as installation property book officer. Jorge F. was accompanied by his oldest son, Roberto J., and youngest son, Jorge L., who just started working at Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center in the Aviation Engineering Directorate.
Clemente Jr. signed autographs afterward for workers who formed a line in the auditorium lobby. Among them was Cynthia Aldridge, of Targets Management Office, who asked him to sign a baseball.
"It's for my son (17-year-old Spencer Phelps)," she said. "He loves baseball."
In support of this year's Hispanic American Heritage Month observance, Team Redstone sponsored an essay and static display contest. The essay winners are: first place, Linda Mendenhall of AMCOM Legal Office; second, K.C. Bertling of the Space and Missile Defense Command; and third, Alfredo Reza of the Garrison. The display winners include first place, 2nd Army Recruiting Brigade; second, Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space; and third, Garrison.