Wells earns 2010 Branch Rickey Award

Jays' Wells earns 2010 Branch Rickey Award

DENVER -- Blue Jays outfielder Vernon Wells has been selected as the 2010 winner of the 19th annual Branch Rickey Award for humanitarian works, the Rotary Club of Denver announced on Thursday.

The prestigious award will be presented to Wells and he will be inducted to the Baseball Humanitarians Hall of Fame during a banquet at the Marriott City Center Hotel in downtown Denver on Nov. 13.

The award has gained national prestige since it was established in 1991. Each year, MLB teams nominate a player, coach or executive for the award, which according to the guidelines personifies Rotary International's motto, "Service Above Self." Wells was chosen by a 300-member national selection committee composed of sports media, past award winners, baseball executives and Rotary district governors.

Upon signing a seven-year contract extension with the Jays in 2007, Wells donated $1 million to the Jays Care Foundation, mandated to empower and inspire children. In '09, Wells and his wife, Charlene, founded the Perfect 10 Foundation to support and protect single mothers and children in need.

The Perfect 10 Foundation, in partnership with Arms of Hope, began construction last April on eight homes for single mothers and their children on the campus of the Boles Children's Home in Quinlan, Texas.

"This is an important milestone for our foundation," Wells said at the time. "This is just the beginning of the work we expect to accomplish for single mothers and needy children across North Texas. Together with caring organizations like Arms of Hope, North Texas families can start getting the support they need and start living more productive lives."

Wells, exclusively a member of the Blue Jays since debuting in 1999, has been named to three American League All-Star teams, has won three Rawlings Gold Glove Awards and earned a Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award. Wells led the AL in hits in 2003 with 215.

Wells becomes the second member of the Blue Jays to earn the honor. The first was eventual Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, who was chosen as the award's first recipient in 1992.

Wells was announced as the winner by FSN Rocky Mountain broadcaster Alanna Rizzo, who will be master of ceremonies for the banquet for the second straight year.

The award was named for the late Branch Rickey, who is credited with helping to break the color barrier in the Majors by signing Jackie Robinson for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He played the same role in breaking the color barrier in regard to Hispanic players by signing Roberto Clemente.

Rickey also developed baseball's farm system and stimulated expansion. Away from the game, he was an advocate for underprivileged children and spearheaded the development of the famous "Knot Hole Gang" to allow children to attend big league games.

Previous recipients of the Branch Rickey Award are Winfield, the Twins' Kirby Puckett, the Cardinals' Ozzie Smith; the Padres' Tony Gwynn, the Dodgers' Bret Butler, the Astros' Craig Biggio, the Twins' Paul Molitor, the Mets' Al Leiter, the D-backs' Todd Stottlemyre, the D-backs' Curt Schilling, former Mets manager Bobby Valentine, White Sox executive Roland Hemond, the Mariners' Jamie Moyer, former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, the Braves' John Smoltz, the Padres' Trevor Hoffman and the Angels' Torii Hunter.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @harding_at_mlb on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.