For his great year on the field, Arizona Diamondback Joe Saunders may be proudest of all of his nomination for the 2011 Roberto Clemente Award, presented by Chevrolet, which recognizes a player who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field; including sportsmanship and community involvement. Make the jump to learn more about Saunders' charitable program, "Team Saundo" as well as his backpack program for underprivileged youth in the Phoenix area.
"Team Saundo" was founded in 2009 by Joe and his wife, Shanel. Joe purchases 10 All-You-Can-Eat Suites Through the "Team Saundo" initiative during the baseball season and invites patients with life-threatening illnesses from various Phoenix-area hospitals to the ballpark for a pre-game meet-and-greet before enjoying the ballgame. Saunders has also contributed over $10,000 to the Baseball Assistance Team since he joined Major League Baseball in 2006. He also contributed $5,000 to the East Valley Women's League, an organization designed to inspire women and children in the community to lead promising lives.
The "Team Saundo Backpack Program" was created in 2011 to prepare underserved children in Phoenix for the upcoming school year. Saunders purchased 2,000 backpacks while hosting a school supply drive at Chase Field on June 5 and with overwhelming support from the community, the program collected donations valued at over $3,500. Saunders hosted 1,000 underprivileged children and their families at the D-backs game on July 24 where they received their backpacks filled with school supplies. Saunders then visited the Children First Academy, a Phoenix-area school with a 95% homeless rate among students, to distribute the remaining backpacks.
"We are extremely proud of the efforts Joe and his wife have made in making our community a better place for children," D-backs' President & CEO Derrick Hall said. "The time and effort they have spent to provide the necessary supplies for underprivileged children will inevitably leave a lasting impact. His commitment on and off the baseball field has made a tremendous effect around the community and we are delighted that Joe represents our organization as a nominee for this prestigious award."
Saunders would make more than a deserving candidate for the Award, although he is up against 29 other players from every team in the league. Great to hear players going this far out of their way to help others.