CINCINNATI -- When teams nominate one of their own players for the Roberto Clemente Award for community service, it usually is a veteran who has taken a few years to entrench his goodwill in his team's city. Right fielder Jay Bruce is only 24 years old, but he has already worked hard to make a difference off the field. That's why the Reds nominated him for the Clemente Award. "Jay has displayed a level of involvement and awareness that is unusual for a 24-year old," said Charley Frank, the executive director of the Reds Community Fund. "He has been professional, humble and approachable and has consistently over-delivered in the community."
All 30 nominees for the award -- one from each Major League club -- 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. "It's an honor," Bruce said of being a nominee. Bruce signed a six-year, $51 million contract last winter and fulfilled a promise he made to the club when he debuted as a rookie in 2008. Shortly after his callup, Bruce and his agent met with Frank to discuss the big picture and a future of charitable contributions. "We're just getting started, too," Bruce said. "It's something you have to have a plan with and not just go into it blind. I feel it's been good so far and it will continue to happen." This year, Bruce donated $25,000 for a pair of ticket programs created by the Reds Community Fund. One of them, Aaron's Aces, was started by former Reds pitcher Aaron Harang. Bruce insisted that Harang's name remain as part of the program, which donates 28 tickets to military families to attend every Sunday home game. In a tribute to his sister, Kellan, who was born with mental and developmental disabilities, Bruce also provides 30 tickets each month to organizations like Special Olympics and the Down's Syndrome Association that support people with special needs. "Keeping up Aaron's Aces is a big deal to me because it's for the military. Aaron did a great job with that here," Bruce said. "I have a special-needs sister. It's something I'm pretty interested in. A lot of areas can benefit from the things I am doing and things that are happening. I will try not to confine it to one or two certain things." Bruce also donates his time and general baseball instruction to the Reds Rookie Success League, as well as to his own Jay Bruce Baseball Clinics. He is involved with Make-a-Wish Foundation visits during Reds batting practice, and meets with kids during hospital visits and works as a captain of the team's Reds Heads kids club. He holds a baseball camp that donates some of the proceeds to charity and provides complimentary spots for children who lack the financial means to pay for the camp. "His two-day Jay Bruce Baseball Camp was a huge success, thanks in large part to the fact that Jay was amongst the first to arrive and the last to leave each day," Frank said. "He has supported the Reds Community Fund's field renovation efforts, underwritten a second ticket initiative for children with disabilities, volunteered at our Reds Rookie Success League and played a leading role in our 'Reds Un-Cut' fundraiser, despite the fact that it fell on his birthday." For being the Reds' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, Bruce will receive a $7,500 check to donate to a community group of his choosing. Bruce elected to give his prize to teammate Scott Rolen's Enis Farley Foundation and its Camp Emma Lou, a retreat for sick children and their families. "Sick kids can come to this camp and go fishing, they have paddleboats, a petting zoo. It's a way to get away from the hospitals and sickness," Bruce said. 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.