Carlos Carrasco Source: KA Sports Photos — Under Creative Commons License
By Robert Dominguez
Carlos Carrasco’s remarkable comeback from a cancer diagnosis to take the mound again for the Cleveland Indians wasn’t the only feel-good moment in the right-hander’s roller-coaster 2019 season.
On Oct. 25, the Venezuelan native received the 2019 Roberto Clemente Award, the annual honor named for the Pittsburgh Pirates icon from Puerto Rico killed in a 1972 plane crash while bringing aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
The award is given to a player who displays “extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions both on and off the field,” according to MLB, and the 32-year-old pitcher certainly lives up to the criteria.
Despite his off-field struggles after being diagnosed with leukemia in May, Carrasco and his wife Karry continued to give back to the Tampa, Fla., community where they live as well as to those in need in Venezuela, Colombia and even Africa.
The Carrascos were cited for donating money, food, medicine and clothing to families and especially children in those countries. The couple also support two scholarships of $10,000 annually for single mothers to attend school, donate to U.S. veterans, and on every Sunday in the offseason they cook, package and distribute 500 box lunches to the homeless from the front porch of their Tampa home.
“Winning the Roberto Clemente Award is one of the most prestigious honors,” said Carrasco, who was recognized by MLB before Game 3 of the 2019 World Series in Washington.
“This is something that I have dreamed of, and I am very excited to share this honor with the Cleveland Indians and my home country of Venezuela. I hope to continue giving back to others and inspire more players to help in the community.”
The recognition was a welcome highlight in what had been a low period in the 10-year veteran’s life. But after his diagnosis, Carrasco bravely worked his way back to the Majors by early September, this time pitching out of the bullpen.
The perennial Cy Young candidate who won 18 games in 2017 and 17 last season struggled at times during his comeback, but is hopeful for a return at full strength next year.
Past Roberto Clemente Award winners include Willie Mays, the first recipient in 1971 (when it was known as the Commissioner’s Award), Edgar Martinez, Carlos Delgado, David Ortiz, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina.
Robert Dominguez is co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls.”