HOUSTON (AP) — Anthony Rizzo is a cancer survivor and World Series champion. The Roberto Clemente Award is a trophy that will stand out for the Chicago Cubs slugger.
“This is something that is so humbling to receive,” Rizzo said. “It’s the greatest award you can win and I will be forever appreciative of this, and this will go front and center of anything I’ve ever done on the baseball field.”
The 28-year-old Rizzo, a three-time All-Star, was honored Friday night with baseball’s biggest honor for sportsmanship and community involvement. Rizzo was recognized for his foundation’s work to help other families dealing with cancer.
Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when he was only 18 and in the Boston Red Sox minor league system, and he vividly remembers sitting with his mother and getting the news from doctors. He was wearing a “LIVESTRONG” T-shirt.
“The LIVESTRONG Foundation was so big at that time. I was saying, ’We’re going to start a foundation like this eventually. And literally 10 years later it’s coming full circle,” Rizzo said. “Winning this award and being recognized for it, I can’t speak enough about the foundation and the work that we do and what we want to continue to do.”
Rizzo went through six months of chemotherapy, at the same time his grandmother was dealing with breast cancer, and six more weeks of treatment before doctors told Rizzo he was clear of his cancer late in 2008.
In 2012, he started the nonprofit Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation to raise money for cancer research and to provide support to children and their families struggling with the disease.
The foundation supports children’s cancer centers in Florida and Chicago, and supports oncology life specialists to help children deal with the aspects of the disease that are beyond medical treatment. It also sponsors camps for children with cancer.
“More important, though, than any of those support activities is Anthony’s personal involvement with kids,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said.
Rizzo spoke to how much it means to be able to visit a kid in the hospital.
“They light up like a Christmas tree, for five minutes of escaping the reality, because they’re going through treatment,” he said. “They’re battling for their lives and I’m just grateful to be able to go in there and say hello to them and make them escape reality for a second.”
The Clemente Award was presented before Game 3 of the World Series. A year ago, Rizzo and the Cubs ended a 108-year championship drought with their World Series victory.
Major League Baseball has been recognizing players for their philanthropic work since 1971. The honor was named the Roberto Clemente Award in 1973 after the 15-time All-Star was killed in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
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