Cubs manager David Ross texted Jason Heyward on Thursday night, the day MLB announced the right fielder was the Cubs’ nominee for the 2020 Roberto Clemente Award.
“About how I think the Roberto Clemente Award is the coolest one to get,” Ross said. “… It’s a really cool trophy and represents so much.”
If anything, the combination of a pandemic and a nation-wide reckoning on topics of racial justice only placed more weight on MLB players’ philanthropic efforts this year. Several, including Heyward, concentrated their efforts in those areas.
Heyward donated a combined $300,000 to MASK (Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings), the Greater Chicago Food Depository and the University of Chicago Medical Center, according to MLB.
“It is great to bring some awareness and to reward some people that are doing a lot of hard work behind the scenes,” Heyward said.
Then in June, Heyward joined several other Chicago sports figures at the By The Hand Club For Kids in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. The event facilitated discussions between youth and leaders from the By The Hand Club, BUILD and the Westside Health Authority, and Chicago police officers.
Of all his philanthropic and humanitarian work this year, Heyward said that experience impacted him the most.
“That was huge for myself to personally be able to ask questions, to hear their stories, to be able to relate with them as human beings,” Heyward said. “A lot of times as athletes, people just talk about what we do, and they watch us on TV. They don’t see what goes into our lives when we leave here.
“So, for me that was huge, for everyone to be able to come together and kids to be able to talk about their lives, their families, their struggles, their fears. And same with the cops.”
Ross said he had a moment to reflect on Heyward’s leadership in the Cubs clubhouse just before drafting a text to him Thursday.
Not only was Heyward one of just two Cubs batting .300 or better entering play Friday. Not only was he playing five-time Gold Glove-level defense. But he was a supportive teammate through an anxiety-filled season in the middle of a pandemic. He was a vocal proponent of racial justice.
“(For) him to continue to stay true to himself and be a leader in those areas,” Ross said, “has been really remarkable.”