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Speier earns Clemente nomination

Speier earns Clemente nomination

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ANAHEIM -- On the mound, right-hander Justin Speier is a fiery competitor with a devastating split-finger fastball that has made him a reliable reliever over the years.

But off the field is where Speier truly shines. Just ask any of the Angels' children, who always make sure to stop by Speier's locker to play whenever they visit the clubhouse.

Clemente

It's Speier's outgoing and warm personality, along with his willingness to give back to the community, that have garnered him a nomination for the 2008 Roberto Clemente Award, presented by Chevrolet.

The award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and individual contribution to a team. It is named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder, whose spirit and goodwill will always be remembered. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972.

Fans can participate in the selection process of the overall winner through Oct. 5. The fan vote 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, the widow of the Hall of Fame right fielder. The winner will be announced during the World Series.

Speier, whose father, Chris, was a Major League shortstop for 19 seasons, grew up around baseball and big league clubhouses. He learned the professionalism of being a Major Leaguer at a young age while also learning how much of an impact can be made on the lives of others.

And that's why Speier does so much off the field, whether it's just stopping by the Children's Hospital of Orange County to interact with the young patients without media attention or being active with the Make-A-Wish Foundation at Angel Stadium by hosting young fans for a day for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Speier, a former Marine, is also a proud supporter of the nation's troops, making sure he spends time with military personnel who visit Angel Stadium for special events during the season. It was Speier who caught the first pitch from local hero Master Sgt. Davey Lind before the Angels hosted the Blue Jays on the Fourth of July. Speier made sure to give Lind, who lost his lower legs in a roadside bomb explosion near Baghdad in June 2006, a bear hug after he'd thrown out the honorary pitch.

Speier also keeps busy during the offseason, having spent time with troops onboard the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier, signing autographs and visiting with everyone.

He also took part in the Bank of America Challenger Youth Baseball Day at Angel Stadium, working with children with disabilities as they enjoyed a day of baseball.

These are just some of the many ways Speier gives back to his community, and that's what makes him so special on and off the field.

Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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