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Major League Baseball, oft known for their marketing blunders, hit one out of the park with the expansion of who can wear No. 21 for Roberto Clemente Day.
Last season, MLB introduced a special exemption which allowed Puerto Rican players to wear the special number on Sept. 15 to celebrate Clemente and his contributions to baseball. The only other players who were allowed to wear the number were Clemente Award nominees and the six active winners who play in the MLB.
This season, though, it will now be possible for any player, regardless of heritage or place of birth, to request to wear No. 21 for the day, as long as the club is given enough notice to create the uniform. It’s a move that celebrates inclusiveness, instead of adhering to mainstream society’s habit of virtue signaling through division.
All MLB players, managers and coaches will wear a No. 21 patch, regardless of uniform number. The Clemente Day logo will be emblazoned on the bases and official dugout lineup cards. There is also a plan in place to permanently name Sept. 15 Roberto Clemente Day (the date has bounced around slightly in the twenty years since its inception).
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, 39, the longest-tenured active Puerto Rican-born player in MLB, said wearing No. 21 last year was an “extraordinary honor.”
“For all us Latinos who have played Major League Baseball, and have had to deal with so many obstacles, difficulties and challenges, Clemente is the source of inspiration we need to move forward and pursue our dreams and be an example to others on and off the field,” Molina said. “We hope this day continues to perpetuate the remarkable legacy of No. 21.”
MLB calls the Roberto Clemente Award “the most prestigious individual honor for major leaguers.” Recipients must display “extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field” to be considered for the honor.
Clemente died in a plane crash in 1972 while trying to deliver aid to Nicaragua. He was a 15-time All-Star, 12-time Gold Glove winner, member of the 3,000-hit club, four-time batting champion, and National League and World Series MVP. Until last season’s special exemption, no Pirates player had worn No. 21 since his death. Now, everyone will be afforded the opportunity to celebrate the Puerto Rican legend of the game.