Desmond earns nomination for Clemente Award

Desmond earns nomination for Clemente Award

Desmond earns nomination for Clemente Award
WASHINGTON -- Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond considers the District of Columbia his second home, and his goal all season has been to spread the love of baseball in the area. He did just that, and it explains why he is a candidate for the 2011 Roberto Clemente Award.

All 30 nominees have immersed themselves in the type of humanitarian and community efforts that distinguished the life of Clemente, one that ended at age 38 on New Year's Eve 1972, when the plane he was using to deliver aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims crashed.

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 will also 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.

Since joining the team in 2009, Desmond has dedicated himself to helping the local youth baseball community, focusing his efforts on reaching out to at-risk youth.

Just recently, Desmond, 25, paid a visit to the Home Run Baseball Camp at Payne Elementary School in D.C. The Camp runs a year-round, after-school baseball class for kids ages 4-10, in an effort to introduce students from under-served neighborhoods in the District to the fundamentals of baseball.

Desmond helped teach kids the art of hitting and fielding. He looked happiest when the little kids were able to hit the baseball or field their position, giving them high-fives and words of encouragement.

"I want to be able to give back to this community, and possibly [raise] my son here in baseball," Desmond said. "I want to be the ambassador [for] the sport of baseball in Washington, D.C. I think baseball has so many lessons."

Desmond also wants to help more African-American kids learn to love the game of baseball. That's why he was thrilled to attend the formal groundbreaking of the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in May.

The facility, which will include three fields and an 18,000-square-foot athletic and educational building, is located east of the Anacostia River in Ward 7. Desmond was one of the guest speakers.

Desmond spoke about the responsibility the team and the players have to give back to the community around them, especially the area's youth. Speaking as a new parent, Desmond's passionate plea for support from the business community has played an important role in the Dream Foundation's effort to build the Academy. He stressed the importance of access to the kind of guidance, resources and support that the Academy will provide.

"Once you reach this level, you have an opportunity to reach out to people," Desmond said. "I chose to reach out to baseball. I want to give back to baseball. I think baseball is a great sport. It teaches you so many lessons from a young age -- being able to deal with failure is something that is very important in life and in baseball."

In addition to his work with the youth baseball community, Desmond has been a strong supporter of the Nationals' outreach to the military community -- including visiting with wounded veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.