As readers of these pages have long-since figured out, I absolutely love Anthony Rizzo, first baseman for the Chicago Cubs. I've written about him often, most notably here about overcoming Hodgkins lymphoma at the age of 18 to become a major league All Star -- while being an all-around wonderful guy, regularly visiting hospitals and sick children, and raising money for cancer through charity events. And most recently, this August piece about him donating $3.5 million to a family center from his Rizzo Family Foundation. And then a month later, his foundation pledged another $650,000 to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Health System.
Happily, I get to write about The Rizz once again. Because yesterday, Major League Baseball honored Anthony Rizzo as this year's recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award. It's presented to the player who "best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field."
Hey, as I always say, I tries nots to steers ya wrong.
"To win this is amazing," Rizzo said. "That's the impact we want to make. A lot of organizations do amazing work, and we want to impact families directly, and this foundation, that's what the staple is.
"It's insane over the last few years how many people have come up to me and said how we've helped someone's friend of a friend of a friend, and it gets back to me. To touch lives like that, it's something you can't explain."
It doesn't come without a tinge of sadness, when this is the sort of charity work you do. Only two days early, a little girl, Mia, who Rizzo had met when he started his foundation and stayed close with the family, passed away. And Rizzo addressed it with his normal grace.
"Every time I saw her, she was a breath of fresh air," Rizzo said. "The last time I saw her was at Wrigley [Field], and she wasn't looking too good, she was in a wheelchair. But I remember her smiling at me. Losing her is tough, because she was close to the foundation.
"Going through this now for five, six years and visiting kids, there's been a lot of positives that we do and help with the families. But when you lose kids who become close to the foundation and are basically a staple of the foundation, it's not easy," Rizzo said. "That's part of doing this. You have lives you're saving, and then you lose some, and when you lose some, it's not easy to deal with."
I am absolutely sure that all the finalists for the Roberto Clemente Award are wonderful people and would have been highly deserving if they'd been the recipient. But I'm just really pleased to see Anthony Rizzo get recognized, because I think he's a gem.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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