"Obviously what [Clemente] did in his time in the game was monumental," Johnson said Tuesday, which was the 11th annual Roberto Clemente Day celebrated by Major League Baseball. "It's changed the game and helped a lot of Latin players, obviously, to this point. He's kind of shaped a lot for future generations. I'm just trying to do a little small part. And we will see how things work out for the award."
Johnson has spearheaded the organization's effort with the Miracle League of Manasota, at the team's spring home in Sarasota, Fla., which provides opportunities for disabled children to play baseball. In 2011, the right-hander started the Birdland Golf Classic event, which over the past two years has raised a total of $50,000 that went directly to the Miracle League of Manasota.
In large part due to the success of the Classic (along with additional donations from the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates), the Miracle League was able to open the first Miracle League Field in the Sarasota-Bradenton area last December with a groundbreaking ceremony that Johnson -- a year-round resident -- attended. He also appeared at an Orioles-hosted clinic for children in the Miracle League as part of the field dedication ceremony. The field features a flat rubberized surface to eliminate barriers and create a safe playing environment for players challenged with any form of special need.
Johnson's work with children with disabilities extends to Baltimore, where he is involved with the Challenger League in Maryland and Virginia and, earlier this season, he taught baseball to over 40 players from the Orioles Advocates Challenger League at Lake Waterford Park in Pasadena in a Fantasy Camp for Kids.
He also remains active in giving back to the troops, donating $1,000 for the second consecutive year as the Orioles hosted a group of wounded soldiers and other active military members and their families in a private catered suite for each Sunday home game. He also meets with the soldiers on the field pregame.
"I don't really do things for name recognition," said Johnson, who will be honored in a special pregame ceremony on Monday. "Obviously there's 29 other guys [around baseball] who are very well deserving, I'm sure, and there's probably people who were left out of it as well. It's part of the job description and I think it's something worthwhile that's part of our job."
Beginning Tuesday, fans are encouraged to participate in the process of selecting the national award recipient by visiting MLB.com/ClementeAward to vote for one of the 30 nominees. Participating fans will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to the 2012 World Series, where the national winner of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet will be announced. Voting ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 14, and the winner of the fan poll will receive one vote among those cast by a selection panel.