Davey Martinez never wore the No. 21 growing up. At least not when playing baseball. To do so, donning the number worn by his idol, Roberto Clemente, didn’t seem right to him.
In celebration of Roberto Clemente Day in the majors, however, he decided it was okay to put the number on the back of his Washington Nationals jersey.
Major League Baseball allowed all players of Puerto Rican descent to wear the number of the Carolina, Puerto Rico-born former major leaguer, who put up a .317/.359/.475 line over 18 seasons in the majors.
Major League Baseball celebrates Roberto Clemente Day each September, to honor the, “... the legacy of the Hall of Famer and 15-time All-Star who died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.”
“It’s an honor, it really is,” Martinez said of wearing the number, a day after the rest of the big league teams did since the Nationals were off on Wednesday.
“I wore it as a football player in high school, I wouldn’t wear it as a baseball player, because that would be tough for me. But to put his jersey on — I got it hanging up next to my jersey in my locker right now, and it’s just amazing to see that number on my back and everybody else’s back.
“I watched some of the games yesterday and watching all those guys wear it, it means a lot, it means a lot to all of us.”
Martinez, born in New York to parents of Puerto Rican descent, asked his coaching staff to join him and wear the number as well.
“I think Roberto Clemente as you know, he’s my idol. What he represents is unity, and I thought it would be nice to have the coaches as well, wear — represent 21 as well,” the third-year skipper said.
“He means a lot not only to the Latin community, but the baseball community, and what he’s done, not only as a baseball player, but as a humanitarian.”
Martinez talked earlier this week about one of his players, Sean Doolittle, being named as the club’s nominee for the annual Roberto Clemente Award, which is handed out as, “an annual recognition of the MLB player who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.” Thirty players, one from each team, are nominated for the award.
Doolittle, Martinez said, was an excellent choice as a representative for the Nationals.
“He’s unbelievable,” Martinez said this past Tuesday. “I’m just talking — we know what he is as a player, but as a human being, he’s one of the best I’ve ever met. I mean, he cares about everybody and everything. And he’s vocal, as you know, but I’m proud of him and his wife, [Eireann Dolan], and what they do for our community. He’s an unbelievable humanitarian.”
Doolittle, as MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato noted, “has supported the LGBTQ community by donating $12,000 to Nationals Night OUT, and he was the recipient of the Team DC Community Service Award, which honors local sports leaders for their advocacy. He has held workshops at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy as part of MLB’s Shred Hate bullying-prevention program, and he participated in the UN Refugee Agency’s gameday experience.”
Doolittle said this week that he was humbled to even be mentioned in any way connected to Clemente.
“That’s something that I’m incredibly proud of. I’ve been nominated for it before, and this is my first nomination here in D.C. with the Nats, and just to be associated in a really small way with Roberto Clemente’s legacy is something I’m extremely humbled by,” Doolittle said.
“And I’m just incredibly grateful to be nominated and be recognized. That’s not something that is on your mind when you’re doing some of the work in the community, but it does feel really nice to be recognized for it and I don’t know, I think about Clemente and his legacy and how important his activism off the field was.
“His charity work off the field, that was something that he was incredibly passionate about and it’s rightfully a big part of who he was as a person and as a player, so like I said, I’ll never ever come close to his on the field legacy, but to be associated with him in a small way, it means a lot to me, I’m really appreciative.”
In honor of Roberto Clemente Day, we're beyond proud to honor Sean Doolittle for all of his work in the community.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 9, 2020
Cast your vote for Sean as @MLB's 2020 Roberto Clemente Award Winner at https://t.co/Ijj6OkJL5I.#ClementeDay // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/cyTn7gtz7B