Clemente's honor extends to Wilson

Clemente's honor extends to Wilson

PITTSBURGH -- Jack Wilson smiled and jokingly called it a "three-peat." Named as the Pirates' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for the third consecutive year, Wilson continues to earn recognition for making lasting contributions off the field just as much as he does on it.

And with that same smile and his charitable work and service to the community, Wilson continues to touch the lives of countless area children.

The Clemente 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. The winner will be announced during the World Series.

Wilson's contributions to the community are numerous, though a few specifically stand out.

His "Bowling with the Bucs" event early in the season, an idea that he and his wife, Julie, had to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia, has become a huge success. The bowling tournament has garnered the involvement of numerous Pirates players, and the three-year event has raised $57,000 for the foundation. Of that amount, $30,000 was raised this year alone.

"It really developed during Spring Training a couple of years ago," Wilson said of the idea. "A lot of the team liked to go bowling, and it's a pretty popular sport and anyone can do it, so it's an easy way to get everybody together out there. It's a great cause to work with those kids and have a wish fulfilled."

But that's just the first item on the list. Among some of the other ways in which Wilson gives back to his community include his work with Camp Firefly, an organization that provides a week-long retreat for seriously ill children. Wilson also works with a Christian camp in Pittsburgh that mentors inner-city children. The list could go on and on.

Wilson has chosen another foundation close to his heart -- the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation -- to be the recipient of the Clemente grant money. His interest in the JDRF stems from his relationship with Pirates equipment manager Roger Wilson, whose daughter, Whitney, deals with diabetes.

Roberto Clemente Day

"I obviously know that's a tough thing with all the shots," said Wilson, who has also seen members of his family deal with diabetes. "I am not into needles at all, so it's just one of those things that I've been working with Roger for seven years now and to work with someone who has a daughter going through this, it's nice to be able to do this in her name."

Whitney Wilson, a second-year student at the University of Pittsburgh, is expected to be present on the field with Wilson when he is recognized for this nomination before the Pirates' Sept. 12 game against the Brewers.

While Wilson is obviously honored by being one of 30 nominees for the Clemente Award, it's more of a humble appreciation. Being recognized is nice, yes, but it's the children -- not the recognition -- that drive him to find ways to make a difference.

"I learned from a lot of guys who did different things," Wilson said. "You go out and do some community things and it's nice to be recognized, but most of this stuff is stuff you do on the side and at home are the ones who know it's going on. It's just nice to do and nice to help."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.