Cruz is the 50th recipient of the honor, which is given annually to a player who exudes a mix of both on-field sportsmanship and off-field philanthropy and community outreach. Each season, one player from each team is nominated, with Cruz being selected by the Minnesota Twins prior to being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The 41-year-old veteran has been instrumental in giving back to his native Dominican Republic for many years and added to that this past year by sending financial aid to his home country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nelson Cruz is the 2021 Roberto Clemente Award winner!— MLB (@MLB) October 27, 2021
Thanks to his charitable work in his native Dominican Republic, Cruz is the 50th winner of the prestigious honor. pic.twitter.com/8yRsLW9Ehr
The 17-year veteran's philanthropy goes way back, reaching to nearly a decade ago when he donated fire trucks and ambulances to the Dominican Republic to help with relief when a fire burned through his hometown. Cruz regularly sends dentists and optometrists to his hometown of Las Matas de Santa Cruz, while his Boomstick23 Foundation has broken ground to bring sports and educational resources to aspiring athletes -- among other charitable endeavors.
"I never was doing what I was doing to be recognized or win awards, but it's always nice when people recognize the work that you put on to help others," Cruz said, via MLB.com. "I know all 29 other players that were nominated really deserved to win it. I just thank God that I was the one."
Cruz is expected to receive the award ahead of Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday.