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La Isla Bonita

Roberto Clemente Jr. fights hunger in Puerto Rico and around the world


spinner image Pittsburgh Pirates Roberto Clemente stands in front of his father and brothers
Roberto Clemente Jr. stands in front of his father Pittsburgh Pirates Roberto Clemente and his two younger brothers in 1972.
Neil Leifer/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

Having a superstar athlete for a father and namesake was never easy. I remember telling my mom that I wanted to have a name of my own. As I grew up, though, I came to realize that the name is a blessing. People appreciate my dad for what he did as a right fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, sure, but they also remember him as someone who always wanted to help. That’s how we lost him — his plane went down over the Atlantic in 1972 as he was traveling to Nicaragua to deliver aid to earthquake victims. I was only 7 when it happened.

I grew up in Puerto Rico, where my mom always helped people when she could. Helping is all that I know. When I played Little League ball, I would see kids, even adults, asking the players for something to eat.

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Now, as the global ambassador for Food for the Hungry and its Striking Out Poverty initiative, I see that need everywhere but especially in areas far removed from where government agencies look for it. Our goal is to reach people and teach them how to stand on their own. We are learning, most recently, that a lack of clean drinking water is a major issue.

spinner image Roberto Clemente stands in a field
Roberto Clemente Jr. would like to get Major League Baseball involved in Food for the Hungry and its Striking Out Poverty initiative.
Christopher Gregory

The people of Puerto Rico are still suffering after the devastation of Hurricane Maria, and they are still drinking contaminated water. We’re using donations to distribute water across the island and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In a way, I’m working to bring my cause full circle. I’m not just the son of a Major League Baseball player; I was a player myself, and I’d like to get the league involved in what we’re doing. In some places in Africa where Food for the Hungry works, there are kids who don’t have any idea what baseball is. Young people there do not just need something to eat but something to do. My dream is that we solve hunger in these places while helping to create Major Leaguers. —As told to Michael Anft

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