Sabathia a natural fit as Clemente nominee

Sabathia a natural fit as Clemente nominee

CC Sabathia's prowess on the mound has the Yankees looking to him for big performances every fifth day, and his actions away from the field are earning him acknowledgments as well.

The left-handed ace has been named the Yankees' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given annually to the player who combines a dedication to giving back to the community with outstanding skills on the field.

"It means a lot to be recognized for the stuff that we're doing off the field," Sabathia said. "We don't do it for the awards, but it's nice to be recognized."

All 30 nominees have immersed themselves in the type of humanitarian and community efforts that distinguished the life of Clemente, a life that ended at age 38 on New Year's Eve, 1972, when the plane he was using to deliver aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims crashed.

Fans will once again have the opportunity to participate in the selection of the national winner. They can cast votes for any of the 30 club nominees through Oct. 9.

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 Commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, widow of the Hall of Fame right fielder.

Voting fans also will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip for four to the 2011 World Series to see the national winner presented with the Roberto Clemente Award.

In 2009, along with his wife, Amber, Sabathia officially established his "PitCCh In" foundation, a non-profit organization that supports inner-city youth through the funding and support of academic and athletic programs in both Northern California and New York areas.

The foundation is committed to the care and needs of inner-city children while helping to raise self-esteem through sports activities and education. Sabathia said that concern for his hometown of Vallejo, Calif., was largely responsible.

"It was always part of me, ever since I signed [a contract] for the very first time," Sabathia said. "When I was 17, I was thinking of ways to give back into my hometown and my elementary school. I think it really just came about by caring about my hometown, and that's something that's always been in me, ever since I was young. It's just kind of gotten bigger over time."

Besides running baseball clinics, participating in school visits and hosting various charity events, Sabathia and "PitCCh In" often make efforts to give students a needed boost in their academic careers. Earlier this month, the foundation helped young children get a head start on the school year by donating backpacks filled with school supplies to 1,700 New York-area students at P.S. 106 Parkchester in the Bronx.

Every June, the Nathan Berhel Scholarship award, named in honor of Sabathia's cousin and childhood friend who passed away in 2004, is given to Vallejo High School students who excel in the classroom and are part of athletic teams.

"We're just going to keep continuing what we're doing; do more baseball clinics, give away more backpacks and try to get kids playing more baseball," Sabathia said. "I really like helping the Little League and doing our Christmas caravan. Being able to talk to and help so many different people, not just in sports, but all over the city -- it's always a lot of fun."

The Yankees will recognize Sabathia's nomination for this year's Clemente Award with an on-field ceremony scheduled to take place prior to their 7:05 p.m. game vs. the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, Sept. 22.

"I enjoy it, and my wife does too," Sabathia said. "It's a lot of work, but we enjoy doing it."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.