Former Oklahoma State All-American pitcher Andrew Heaney has been nominated for Major League Baseball's 2016 Roberto Clemente Award, and fans can now help the Cowboy great's candidacy for the philanthropic honor via online voting.
A pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Heaney is the club's nominee for the annual Clemente Award, which recognizes a player who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field. All 30 MLB clubs nominate one player from their team to be considered for the award in tribute to Clemente's achievements and character by recognizing players who understand the true value of helping others.
Fans can participate in selecting the 2016 winner by posting Heaney's voting hashtag — #VoteHeaney — to MLB's official social media accounts: @MLB on Twitter and Facebook.com/MLB and Facebook.com/Angels.
The original "Commissioner's Award" for philanthropic service was renamed in 1973 in honor of Clemente, the Hall of Famer and 15-time All-Star who died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
"I've won awards and gotten nominated for awards and this is definitely the most honored and most excited I've ever been for one," Heaney said. "It's something that I can control. That sounds weird, but sometimes in baseball you may have a miraculous season and get an award and you're thinking, 'Man, I don't know what happened.'
"But here, I do make a conscious effort to try and do the right thing, to be a productive member of society and be accountable for what I can bring and how I can affect other people. It's very cool to be recognized for that."
Heaney's philanthropy is far reaching and on a global scale, and the list includes:
Several years ago, Heaney hatched an idea.
"I talked to my agent and told him we needed to get a mission trip started — that would be the coolest thing, to be able to go with a group and help somewhere," Heaney said. "I just left it open — I didn't have anything or anywhere specific. He did some research and found Hearts2Honduras. We met with them, and they seemed like really great people. We told them we wanted to put a group together and help out in any way we could."
Heaney has done just that, traveling to the Central American country each of the last two years to lend his hand to one of the poorest countries in Latin America, a place with the world's highest murder rate that is also ravaged by drugs and prostitution.
During Heaney's initial trip, he, his wife Jordan and several baseball players helped build a learning center in El Progreso, a city located about 20 miles from San Pedro Sula, the country's second-largest city and one marred by high crime rates. Heaney's group hauled trees, rocks and debris, leveled ground and carried, mixed and shoveled cement for the center's foundation.
Last year, Heaney returned to Honduras and saw the fruits of his group's initial labor, with dozens of children thriving in their new environment.
"The people are amazing and so grateful for us being there," Heaney said. "To continue going back, you can see the difference you made in those lives and how happy those kids are to have experiences they would not have ever had.
"It's amazing and gratifying, and you realize no matter what you do, there's always more you can do. These kids have literally been given zero opportunities and no chance to succeed. To be able to show up and bring a positivity to them and help them escape their daily reality is a positive in itself."
Heaney continues to support the people of Honduras and last month created a Pledge It fund where people can pledge a donation for every Anaheim Angels' win in August and September, a donation that Heaney will match. To join Heaney's efforts visit, pledgeit.org/Andrew-Heaney.
Pastime For Patriots
Heaney is also involved with Pastime for Patriots, an organization that honors United States servicemen and servicewomen.
"We're able to get tickets for those serving in the military and their families to enjoy a night at the ballpark and be recognized for their hard work and service," Heaney said.
A program through the MLB Players Trust matches up to $2,500 in baseball equipment donations to teams and groups, and Heaney, a native of Oklahoma City, recently delivered a wealth of new equipment to Putnam City High School, his alma mater.
"Especially in baseball, for young kids, it's not easy for families to afford that equipment," Heaney said. "It's sad to say but I've seen the number of guys playing diminishing. Kids want to play, but then they show up in jeans and maybe football spikes, and it's like they can't really help you — the school can't buy you new equipment and there isn't much hand-me-down stuff so they just do the best they can.
"I'm hoping that will be something every year that I can help them stockpile some equipment, and in the future they might be able to provide for some of those kids that aren't able to afford it."
Since 2014, PLEDGE IT has helped professional athletes in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, MLL, PGA, LPGA and Olympics support their favorite charities, as well as countless colleges, high schools and youth teams.
PLEDGE IT has also worked with large charities such as The American Cancer Society, UNICEF, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Children’s Hospital Of Philadelphia and the Ronald McDonald House and has been featured on ESPN, USA TODAY, Fox Sports, MSNBC, Sports Illustrated and Ellen DeGeneres Show.