Reynolds Honored For His Charity -- M's Second Baseman Wins Clemente Award
For Harold Reynolds, baseball is only part of life. For what he's done with the rest of it, the Seattle Mariners second baseman has won this year's Roberto Clemente Award, baseball's highest off-the-field honor.
The award is given annually to the player who best exemplifies the game on and off the field. It's named for the Pittsburgh Pirates' Hall of Fame outfielder who died in December 1972 when a relief plane crashed while taking supplies to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua.
The winner is chosen on the basis of sportsmanship, character, community involvement and contribution to his team and the game.
"It is a true honor," Reynolds said, "because Roberto Clemente was a true humanitarian. He gave the ultimate - his life - to help people."
There are many in the Pacific Northwest who see Reynolds in a similar light.
"Baseball is merely Harold's professional life," said Wayne Perryman of Mercer Island, who has helped Reynolds in a number of his community efforts. "Helping people is Harold's real life."
"Harold is an example to all of us," said Mariners catcher Dave Valle, who has his own foundation to help various charities. "He is not only a great player, he is a really great person."
Or should that be Point of Light? Last September, President Bush named Reynolds one of his Thousand Points of Light for his contributions to the community since coming to the big leagues with the Mariners in 1985. He has received numerous other awards for his efforts.
A native of Corvallis, Ore., Reynolds has created programs such as Role Models Unlimited, which encourages successful business men and women to be active role models for inner-city youths; Harold's Helpers, which encourages youths to take an active role in their communities; and the Harold Reynolds Children's Charities, a foundation to help youth programs.
Last Christmas, he paid for a dinner and gifts for 800 needy families in Corvallis. The week before, he coordinated a food and clothing drive.
"I was brought up that way," Reynolds said. "When you see someone in need . . . you just help them out. All the awards are great, the Clemente, the Point of Light and all. But I'd be doing all this stuff anyway.
"If I started to even think in terms of awards, it wouldn't be coming from the heart. It would be coming from the head."
He readily acknowledges he uses his position and prestige as a ballplayer, a two-time American League All-Star, as a platform to help with his efforts.
"I'm proud to be able to do it," he said. "Only so many people in the world can have the influence we professional athletes do. And so many of the players I see around me have no sense of giving back.
"There is a responsibility that comes with our position, our platform. It makes my heart cry to see players who don't understand the spirit. They sign autographs and think they're doing their part. They could do so much more."
Reynolds is driven by the feeling he can make a difference in people's lives.
"Doing it makes a huge difference in my life," he said. "Sharing with others over the last four, five years has helped me find out who Harold Reynolds truly is."
Reynolds is already working on a new idea. Like most of his work, it is directed toward young people and will be called "A Night With the Stars."
"We're going to have a citywide outreach to kids," he said. "We'll get the mayor, professional people, businessmen, athletes. And we'll have them tell their stories.
"It's important for kids not to feel like they are the only ones who go through what they face. They have to see that others have made it through those struggles and succeeded. And that they can.
"We'll have music and entertainment and a lot of fun, too. But the message, you know . . . we've got to get the message to the kids . . . that they are OK, they will be OK. They've just got to hold that dream in front of them, work for it, fight for it. Never let it go."
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