The award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team. It is named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder whose spirit and goodwill will always be remembered. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972.
According to Danielle Silverstein, executive director of the Jays Care Foundation, Wells' nomination for the award is deserved.
"Vernon is, I would have to say, the team leader when it comes to anything that is required of him from a community standpoint," Silverstein said. "Whether it's school visits, or a kid that is at the ballpark on a day, [Vernon] is the one that will go over and give a word of encouragement or sign some autographs. He really leads the way in that."
This year, Wells has again served as an honorary commissioner for the Rookie League, something he has done since the 2002 season. The eight-week league, which was created by the Jays Care Foundation, provides free baseball for children living in Toronto Community Housing.
More than 400 children participated in the program this year. In August, they all had the chance to spend some time with Wells during the league's wrap-up event at Rogers Centre, where the center fielder signed autographs, posed for pictures and answered all of the kids' questions.
"I think Vernon has some personal experience of knowing what some of these kids are going through," said Silverstein. "I don't see anybody that could turn their back or say, 'No' on helping when they could. Vernon just really steps up to the plate to [help].
"He's got the capability now, based on his career and his place in life, and he has certainly not neglected to use that for good in the community that he is serving."
Wells' financial contributions to the Rookie League have been extremely substantial. His donations this year provided a new baseball glove to each child, along with a T-shirt, lunches throughout the program, and a backpack filled with school supplies.
In addition to the league, Wells has also participated in all of the Jays Care Foundation's major events this year. He attended the annual Charity Golf Tournament, as well as the Field of Dreams Gala and the annual Reverse Draw, all of which have been successful in raising money for charity.
Fans looking to help Wells win The Roberto Clemente Award can participate in the selection process of its overall winner, now through Oct. 5. 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 MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, widow of the Pirates' Hall of Fame right fielder. The winner will be announced during the World Series. Craig Biggio of the Astros took home last year's award.