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updated: 10/27/2017 8:53 PM

Chicago Cubs star Rizzo wins MLB's Clemente Award

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  • Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who has used his own battle with cancer to help and inspire others, has been named the recipient of the 2017 Roberto Clemente Award.

    Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who has used his own battle with cancer to help and inspire others, has been named the recipient of the 2017 Roberto Clemente Award.

  • Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, shown here visiting pediatric cancer patient Ethan Hugins, 6, of Naperville at Lurie Children's Hospital, has been honored with the Roberto Clemente Award for his charitable work. Rizzo's Foundation donated more than $4 million this year to help families in their battle with cancer.

    Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, shown here visiting pediatric cancer patient Ethan Hugins, 6, of Naperville at Lurie Children's Hospital, has been honored with the Roberto Clemente Award for his charitable work. Rizzo's Foundation donated more than $4 million this year to help families in their battle with cancer.
    file photo COURTESY OF Ryanne Hugins

 
Daily Herald News Services

HOUSTON -- Anthony Rizzo is a cancer survivor and World Series champion. The Roberto Clemente Award is a trophy that will stand out for the Chicago Cubs slugger.

"This is something that is so humbling to receive," Rizzo said. "It's the greatest award you can win and I will be forever appreciative of this, and this will go front and center of anything I've ever done on the baseball field."

The 28-year-old Rizzo, a three-time All-Star, was honored Friday night with baseball's biggest honor for sportsmanship and community involvement. Rizzo was recognized for his foundation's work to help other families dealing with cancer.

Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma when he was only 18 and in the Boston Red Sox minor league system, and he vividly remembers sitting with his mother and getting the news from doctors. He was wearing a "LIVESTRONG" T-shirt.

"The LIVESTRONG Foundation was so big at that time. I was saying, 'We're going to start a foundation like this eventually. And literally 10 years later it's coming full circle," Rizzo said. "Winning this award and being recognized for it, I can't speak enough about the foundation and the work that we do and what we want to continue to do."

Rizzo went through six months of chemotherapy, at the same time his grandmother was dealing with breast cancer, and six more weeks of treatment before doctors told Rizzo he was clear of his cancer late in 2008.

In 2012, he started the nonprofit Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation to raise money for cancer research and to provide support to children and their families struggling with the disease.

The foundation supports children's cancer centers in Florida and Chicago, and supports oncology life specialists to help children deal with the aspects of the disease that are beyond medical treatment. It also sponsors camps for children with cancer.

"More important, though, than any of those support activities is Anthony's personal involvement with kids," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said.

Rizzo spoke to how much it means to be able to visit a kid in the hospital.

"They light up like a Christmas tree, for five minutes of escaping the reality, because they're going through treatment," he said. "They're battling for their lives and I'm just grateful to be able to go in there and say hello to them and make them escape reality for a second."

The Clemente Award was presented before Game 3 of the World Series. A year ago, Rizzo and the Cubs ended a 108-year championship drought with their World Series victory.

Major League Baseball has been recognizing players for their philanthropic work since 1971. The honor was named the Roberto Clemente Award in 1973 after the 15-time All-Star was killed in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

Charitable stars

Anthony Rizzo joins a distinguished list of national Roberto Clemente Award recipients:

2017: Anthony Rizzo

2016 : Curtis Granderson

2015 Andrew McCutchen

2014: Paul Konerko and Jimmy Rollins

2013: Carlos Beltran

2012: Clayton Kershaw

2011: David Ortiz

2010: Tim Wakefield

2009: Derek Jeter

2008: Albert Pujols

2007: Craig Biggio

2006: Carlos Delgado

2005: John Smoltz

2004: Edgar Martinez

2003: Jamie Moyer

2002: Jim Thome

2001: Curt Schilling

2000: Al Leiter

1999: Tony Gwynn

1998: Sammy Sosa

1997: Eric Davis

1996: Kirby Puckett

1995: Ozzie Smith

1994: Dave Winfield

1993: Barry Larkin

1992: Cal Ripken, Jr.

1991: Harold Reynolds

1990: Dave Stewart

1989: Gary Carter

1988: Dale Murphy

1987: Rick Sutcliffe

1986: Garry Maddox

1985: Don Baylor

1984: Ron Guidry

1983: Cecil Cooper

1982: Ken Singleton

1981: Steve Garvey

1980: Phil Niekro

1979: Andre Thornton

1978: Greg Luzinski

1977: Rod Carew

1976: Pete Rose

1975: Lou Brock

1974: Willie Stargell

1973: Al Kaline

1972: Brooks Robinson

1971: Willie Mays

Before 1973, the award was known as the Commissioner's Award