This year marks 50 years since Roberto Clemente’s passing, and Thursday marks the second annual celebration of Roberto Clemente Day across Major League Baseball. Around that, MLB Network is rolling out some special coverage. They’ll be broadcasting MLB Tonight live from Citi Field ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates–New York Mets game, appropriate considering that Clemente spent his entire MLB career (1955-72) with the Pirates.
This edition of MLB Tonight will be co-hosted by Fran Charles, Sean Casey and former Roberto Clemente Award winner Harold Reynolds. A number of other Clemente Award winners will join the program in person, including Steve Garvey, Carlos Delgado, Jimmy Rollins, Dale Murphy, Rick Sutcliffe, Dave Stewart and Dave Winfield. The award has been handed out each year since 1971, and was named for Clemente in 1973 following his 1972 death in a plane crash while he was delivering supplies to victims of the Nicaragua earthquake. It’s voted on by both media and fans, and is given to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.”
As for this specific live MLB Tonight edition, MLBN senior vice president (production) Marc Caiafa told AA via e-mail that this fits into their strategy of expanding live from the road coverage beyond just what they’ve done for the All-Star Game and the World Series. A few examples of that include their first-ever college remote broadcast of Intentional Talk from the University of Texas at Austin in May, MLB Tonight from Citi Field ahead of a MLBN Showcase game on Aug. 31, and exclusive on-location minor league coverage, including from the Field of Dreams in Iowa). Caiafa said that this one made particular sense with the Clemente Award winners available to participate:
“It’s important for us to be live from the road,” Caiafa said. “It breathes life into our shows and gives certain events a big-time feel. We’ve had Roberto Clemente Day marked on our calendar for months. Having all the award winners jump at the chance to participate in our content shows the impact of the great Clemente and will make Thursday at Citi Field that much more special.”
After MLB Tonight Thursday, the network will air a special MLB Tonight: A Conversation program on Clemente’s legacy. That program, taped at MLBN’s Studio 21 (seen above, it’s named after Clemente) will be co-hosted by Reynolds and Pedro Martinez. It will see Clemente Award winners Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins, Ozzie Smith, Rod Carew, Curtis Granderson and Nelson Cruz join in, as well as Clemente’s son Luis. Here’s a clip from that featuring Jeter, who won that award in 2009:
And here’s a quote from that, with Jeter talking about how receiving the Clemente Award stacks up to his other accomplishments:
“It sits right there up at the top because it’s not just about what you did on the field. I think you go around and you ask everyone in the game about Roberto Clemente, the first thing that comes to mind is all the work he did in the community … then your mind goes to just what he stood for, not just his stats on the field and the fact that he’s a Hall of Fame baseball player but just how much giving back to the community meant to him.”
It’s certainly notable to see MLBN continuing their A Conversation series (that series started in 2020, and featured an installment on the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in MLB in May) with one on Clemente, and to see so many Clemente Award recipients participating across this and the live MLB Tonight broadcast. That’s a cool way to recognize the second Roberto Clemente Day, and the 50th anniversary of Clemente’s death.
[MLB Network on YouTube]