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Hanser Alberto selected as Orioles’ nominee for Roberto Clemente Award

It was 18 months ago Tuesday that the Orioles claimed infielder Hanser Alberto off waivers for the second time in one offseason. Since, he has earned the opportunity to be a regular part of manager Brandon Hyde’s everyday lineup and, as his selection Thursday as the Orioles’ nominee for the 2020 Roberto Clemente Award shows, endear himself to the community.

Alberto’s nomination for an honor that recognizes a player for his success on the field and humanitarian work off it stems from his efforts both in the Baltimore area and in his native Dominican Republic. An active participant in the Orioles’ “Birdland Caravan” events this offseason, Alberto is regularly involved in the team’s community initiatives.

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Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Alberto has recorded public service announcements for the Maryland Department of Health in both English and Spanish.

“I always able to do stuff to help them, to show them that we are with them in this pandemic,” Alberto said Friday. “It means a lot because besides baseball players, we’re all human. We’ve got feelings. All we want is the best for the people, not just my country but around the world, here in Baltimore. Any message can help.”

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In his hometown of San Francisco de Macorís, Alberto, his family and former teammates from the Texas Rangers organization united to distribute food, medicine and other essential items to more than 500 families.

His work in the Dominican extends beyond the pandemic. In the 2019 offseason, he participated in an annual exhibition and home run derby for charity known as “Game of Legends,” with benefits going to the St. Jude Foundation.

“Before I signed [with Texas], I didn’t have that opportunity to see many professional players come to me or come to my little hometown and help us,” Alberto said. “I just wanted to be different. I want to help the young guys behind me, and that’s where everything comes from.”

In a video posted to the team’s Twitter account, Hyde announced Alberto’s nomination to the team in the outfield at Oriole Park. Afterward, Jennifer Grondahl, the club’s senior vice president of community development and communications, congratulated Alberto and told him the nomination comes with a $7,500 donation from Major League Baseball to a charity of his choice, and that the Orioles would match it. The $15,000 donation will be split between a Baltimore-based organization and Alberto’s family foundation, Fundación Alberto Brito, which serves San Francisco de Macorís.

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Then, Alberto addressed his teammates.

“Thank you, fellas, for the support,” he said. “I know some of the stuff that I take home is stuff from you guys and my ex-teammates. And that’s why we’re here, you know, to help each other. Some of us in the Dominican, we grow up with nothing, so now, we have the opportunity to have everything, so it’s good to help others and to make their lives easier. So thank you so much, and I hope you guys continue to help out to be a better human being, a better teammate and a better person.”

Alberto joined the Orioles before the 2019 season after bouncing among several organizations as part of a series of waiver claims. But since getting an opportunity in Baltimore for regular playing time, he has batted .309. His .321 average in 2020 ranks sixth in the American League, and he’s tied for second in the league in hits.

“Just such a special guy,” Hyde said Friday. “Loved in our clubhouse, like he was loved in Texas’ clubhouse and loved by his family, and you can see why, because he’s just a character. He’s just an awesome character with great personality. Loves to play the game and it shows. That’s why fans love him, because he plays the game like a kid, and he’s the same way in the clubhouse, also. He’s an easy coach’s favorite, and he’s an easy guy to love.”

The Roberto Clemente Award is named for the Hall of Famer who died in a 1972 plane crash trying to deliver supplies to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua. Clemente will be recognized throughout the league Wednesday.

Past winners of the honor include former Orioles Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Singleton and Eric Davis. First baseman Chris Davis was the Orioles’ nominee the previous three seasons.

“I appreciate the Orioles for choosing me for this award,” Alberto said. “I feel pretty grateful. That’s all going to show. We just don’t want to try to do good on the field, but off the field, too. That means we bring a really good message for the people out there. It means a lot, so hopefully, God keeps me healthy for many, many more years, and we can keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

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