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Saunders a deserving Clemente Award nominee

Saunders a deserving Clemente Award nominee

Saunders a deserving Clemente Award nominee
PHOENIX -- For D-backs left-hander Joe Saunders, being mentioned in connection with an award named after the legendary Roberto Clemente is something he'll treasure.

But getting recognized publicly for doing what he thinks is the responsibility of every athlete who has been blessed with talent and money is somewhat awkward.

"To be up for an award in Roberto Clemente's name is a tremendous honor," Saunders said. "My wife and I don't do it for any recognition, we do it because we just want to give back. We feel like we've been blessed with some very fortunate things in this world, and we would like to share that with other people.

"Honestly, I don't think enough players get into doing enough stuff. I think a lot of guys could do a lot more than [they do], and me and my wife -- ever since we've been in this game and been blessed with the things that we have -- we've tried to do as much as we can to give back to other people."

Saunders was chosen as the D-backs' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award this year because of his contributions to the community through his Team Saundo charitable program. The award is named after Pirates Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, whose life ended at age 38 on New Year's Eve 1972, when the plane he was using to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua crashed.

All 30 nominees have immersed themselves in the type of humanitarian and community efforts that distinguished the life of Clemente.

Fans will once again have the opportunity to participate in the selection of the national winner. They can cast votes for any of the 30 club nominees through Oct. 9.

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 Commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, widow of the Hall of Fame right fielder.

Voting fans also will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip for four to the 2011 World Series to see the national winner presented with the Roberto Clemente Award.

Team Saundo was founded in 2009 by Saunders and his wife, Shanel. Their goal was to fulfill community needs and empower underserved children with initiatives focusing on education, well-being and involvement in sports.

Since its inception, the Saunders have invested more than $60,000 into the program and impacted the lives of nearly 8,000 children.

This year, Team Saundo purchased 2,000 backpacks and hosted a school supply drive at Chase Field on June 5. The Saunders, along with some friends, packed up the backpacks with supplies to distribute to kids in need.

The Saunders also purchased 10 All-You-Can-Eat Suites during the season so that patients with life-threatening illnesses from various local hospitals could enjoy a D-backs game.

"I have them come down on the field and I have a little meet-and-greet with them just to say hi, sign some stuff for them, shake hands, give hugs, do whatever I can," Saunders said. "It's great for the kids, but it's a nice break sometimes for the parents as well."

The Saunders also make regular hospital visits and are active around the holidays, working to help feed those in need.

Last year, when the Saunders heard the story about three boys from New Jersey who endured horrific child abuse, they invited the three boys and their new adoptive parents to Anaheim. They treated the family to a once-in-a-lifetime experience by taking care of all their travel and accommodations, which included VIP treatment at an Angels game and accompanying them on a trip to Disneyland.

"If we can help other people out, hopefully it will mean a lot to them, because I know it means a lot to us to be able to do it," Saunders said.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @dbackswriter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["awards" ] }
{"content":["awards" ] }