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Javy Báez and Victor Caratini are honored, excited to wear No. 21 on Roberto Clemente Day

3 years agoAndy Martinez

As Javy Báez and Victor Caratini get ready for Wednesday’s game against the Reds, they’ll go through their normal routines.

The duo will take some batting practice, they’ll look over their pregame notes and then they’ll get dressed. But that part will be a little different. 

Instead of buttoning up their traditional “9” and “7” jerseys, the Puerto Rican duo will be buttoning up Cubs pinstriped jerseys with the number “21” on the back. They’ll do that along with Clemente’s Pirates and other Puerto Ricans across the league to honor the Great One, Roberto Clemente, on Roberto Clemente Day.

Yu Darvish and Jason Heyward, the Cubs’ Roberto Clemente Award nominee, both joined the Puerto Rican duo in wearing 21 on their jerseys. 

“I’m gonna be really excited,” Báez said Monday. “For our island, wearing number 21 is gonna be a big thing. It’s gonna be bigger than people think.”

That’s because Clemente’s influence on the island is immeasurable. The Hall of Fame outfielder was the first Puerto Rican inducted into the Hall of Fame, but his big heart and off-field actions made him just as big of a star as his 3,000 hits and incredible arm.

Clemente died in 1972 in a plane crash when he was transporting relief supplies to Nicaragua, which had been hit by an earthquake.

“His peak was a long time ago, but people still know him as the person he was,” Báez said in an MLB Originals programming video earlier this year. “You will never hear negative comments about him, you always hear good comments.”

That’s why the pair will take great pride when they take the field at historic Wrigley Field, one of the only two fields left that Clemente played in, with the number 21 emblazoned on their backs.

Báez has even followed in Clemente’s footsteps off the field, too. After Hurricane Maria struck in 2017, Báez and the Cubs sent an airplane with relief supplies to the island.

In May in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, Báez and his brother-in-law, Twins pitcher José Berríos, teamed up to provide meals to children in Puerto Rico.

“Keeping [the kids] happy and on the right path is the most important thing for us,” Báez said in May. “We will always be here for the kids.”

Heyward was honored prior to Wednesday’s game. 

“We’re not seeking the spotlight, but it is great to bring some awareness and to kinda reward some people that are doing a lot of hard work behind the scenes,” Heyward said last week after being nominated. “It’s huge for us to be able to do our part and it’s nice to see our names up there for a lot of positivity in giving back.”

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