Brian Roberts doesn't ask for attention for the things he does in the community. In fact, the second baseman often tries to duck the spotlight for his charitable endeavors, choosing instead to do them without fanfare.
This year, though, that may not be possible. Roberts was named the Orioles' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which is awarded annually to a player who makes a difference to the community around him. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to provide disaster relief to Nicaragua in 1972, and Roberts takes his role seriously.
"You can win all the awards you want for performance, but I think we've been put in a very special place to be able to impact people's lives outside of baseball," he said. "Twenty years from now, nobody will remember my batting average from this year or how many home runs I hit -- even if we go to the playoffs. But if you can make a difference in a kid's life, that can make an impact for life. We're very blessed, and you just try to find a way to give things back."
Roberts makes monthly visits to hospitals in Baltimore, and he's served as the team's spokesman for campaigns centered on reading and relief for cystic fibrosis. He even organized a fund-raiser that netted more than $100,000 for the University of Maryland Hospital for Children, a cause that's close to his heart -- both literally and figuratively.
"We go see as many kids as want to be seen. We take toys, books, jerseys and hats. Anything that might cheer them up," said Roberts, who has been in Baltimore for his entire career. "We just want to show them that there's people out there who care. I was in the hospital when I was a kid. I had open-heart surgery when I was 5.
"I know what it's like to be in that situation, as well as how it affects your parents, your siblings and your family."
Every team in the league has a nominee for the award, and the winner will be announced during the World Series. Roberts said that he's always enjoyed working with children, but he wasn't sure how he could make a difference in their lives. And then when he figured out how, it took a while for him to understand how much it meant.
"I think the hard part is realizing that you can walk into a hospital and the kids will care that you're there," he said. "For me, it's like, 'Why would I cheer somebody up? I'm just a normal person.' But once you go and start doing it, you start realizing when you get letters from kids and letters from parents. You hear the hospital staff say that they haven't seen that kid smile in three weeks.
"Once that happens, I think that draws you to it even more. You realize the impact you have, and it may be short-lived, so you have to take advantage of it while you can."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.