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Pujols up for prestigious Clemente Award

Pujols up for prestigious Clemente Award

Albert Pujols is a three-time National League Most Valuable Player Award winner, a nine-time All-Star, a five-time Silver Slugger Award winner -- and now a seven-time nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet.

The 30 club nominees for one of baseball's most prestigious awards were announced on Tuesday, and as has consistently been the case in recent years, Pujols is the Cardinals' nominee. He won the award in 2008, and was nominated in '03 and every season since '05.

"It's always going to be a privilege to get nominated for that award," Pujols said. "It's for the things that you do off the field, and that to me is more important than anything I do in the game numbers-wise. This is an honor."

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The Clemente Award has been given since 1972 in recognition of the player "who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team." It was initially known as the Commissioner's Award, but was renamed in 1973 after Clemente's untimely death.

In Pujols' eyes, the Clemente Award ranks as highly as any honor in the game, including the MVP.

"I think so," he said. "Every award that you get in this game is an honor, but to be nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award obviously is a privilege to be able to follow that legacy that he left. I never got the opportunity to watch him play, but he wasn't just a baseball player. He was more about caring about people."

Pujols is a candidate to win a fourth MVP this year, and he could join a very short list of players if he were to win both the MVP and the Clemente Award. Sammy Sosa in 1999 and Rod Carew in 1977 are the only players to win both in the same season. No player has won the Clemente Award twice.

The Cardinals are on the road this week, so they will recognize Pujols in an on-field ceremony at Busch Stadium on Sept. 14 before their game against the Cubs.

All 30 nominees have immersed themselves in the type of humanitarian and community efforts that distinguished the life of Clemente, a life that ended at age 38 on New Year's Eve, 1972, with the crash of a plane aboard which he was personally delivering aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims.

Fans will once again have the opportunity to participate in the selection of the national winner. They can cast votes for any of the 30 club nominees through Oct. 8.

The fan-ballot winner will be tallied as one vote among those cast by a special selection panel of baseball dignitaries and media members. The panel includes Commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, widow of the Hall of Fame right fielder.

Voting fans also will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip for four to the 2010 World Series to see the national winner presented with the Roberto Clemente Award.

Pujols was recognized because of the work of his Pujols Family Foundation, which has a two-pronged mission. The foundation works to help people with Down syndrome in the United States, and to aid children in the Dominican Republic, where Pujols was born. He has repeatedly said that he considers the work his duty.

"I said it when I won it in '08 and I'll say it again," Pujols said. "If I could have asked [Clemente] why he did [what he did], I think I know the answer. It's because he thought it was his responsibility."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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