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Shields honored to be Clemente nominee

Shields honored to be Clemente nominee

James Shields is this year's Rays nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevy.

Shields will be recognized before the Sept. 13 game against the Yankees at Tropicana Field.

"I think it's a pretty prestigious thing to be nominated for an award named for [Clemente]; he did a lot of things for the community," Shields said. "To be able to be recognized as helping Tampa Bay out and our organization out, that's really good."

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All 30 nominees 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, with the crash of a plane aboard which he was personally delivering aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims.

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. 8.

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 2010 World Series to see the national winner presented with the Roberto Clemente Award.

Shields and his wife, Ryane, donated a suite at Tropicana Field for the the 2010 season that is known as the "Big Game James Clubhouse." The beneficiary of the Shields' generosity has been 50 youngsters from Eckerd Youth Alternatives, which serves as the lead agency for community-based child welfare, overseeing the local foster care system.

Foster care and adoption are issues close to the Shields' heart. The Big Game James Club creates normalcy and a sense of stability and belonging for foster children served by Eckerd Youth Alternatives. In addition to the suite, children in the Big Game James Club have had the opportunity to meet Shields on the field before a Rays game.

Shields and his wife have also been actively involved with the Progress Energy Heart Gallery of Pinellas and Pasco County for the past four seasons. The focus of the Heart Gallery is to provide an emotionally safe way to connect children with families through a traveling exhibit featuring the faces and stories of local foster children ready for adoption.

In addition, Shields supports the Rays Baseball Foundation by participating in their fundraisers. He golfs in their annual tournament and has donated pitching lessons for their broadcast auctions. He provided funds to help the foundation rebuild a youth baseball field in Bradenton, Fla.

When listening to Shields, it's easy to ascertain that he gains a lot of joy from giving back. When asked about his involvement, Shields spoke of his wife's passion for the cause.

"She's really big into the foster thing," Shields said. "She's an only child and she feels that every child needs a family and she's real big into the whole foster thing with the Heart Gallery and Eckerd Youth. She wants to be involved for a long time. She thinks it's very important to have a kid that's real young have a family to look up to."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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