Salvador Pérez of the Kansas City Royals has won this year’s Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, sponsored by the Phi Delta Theta International Fraternity, headquartered in Oxford, Ohio. Phi Delta Theta presents the award annually to a Major League Baseball player who best exemplifies the giving character of Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig, who was a member of the Fraternity’s Columbia University chapter. The award was first presented in 1955 and is permanently maintained at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.
Pérez is the second member of the Kansas City Royals to win the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award following George Brett in 1986. He will receive the award on Friday, June 3, prior to the Royals’ game against the Houston Astros.
Past recipients of the award include Stan Musial, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Harmon Killebrew, Willie Stargell, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn, Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, and many more.
Photo by Kansas City Royals
Off the Field
In his native Venezuela, Pérez annually sponsors over two hundred kids for participation in a baseball academy, funds dozens of free baseball clinics throughout the country, donates over 1,500 toys to children’s hospitals, sponsors and pays for thirty surgeries for children with cleft lip, distributes over 1,500 meals to families in need, donates $50,000 to sponsor families of police officers in Venezuela, and, in the last year, coached a clinic for kids through the Carlos Fortuna Organization in Bogota, Columbia.
In the United States, Perez’s $1 million donation was a significant charter sponsor in developing the Kansas City MLB Urban Youth Academy, and he continues to make appearances at the facility to speak and work with underserved youth. The academy opened in 2018 and serves as the epicenter of youth baseball and softball throughout the Midwest, focusing on educating youth on what it means to be a Major League citizen and empowering them to be leaders in the community through character development and education. Salvador has worked tirelessly to help education efforts in Kansas City through Teach for America Kansas City so teachers can continue to further the education of their students. He held a teachers’ appreciation night where he sponsored a suite for local teachers, gave them each an autographed baseball, and donated $10,000 to Teach for America. His passion for education continues as he develops a dual language children’s book through the ESL (English as a second language) program.
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Salvador donates used game and autographed uniforms and equipment to various charity events throughout the Kansas City area, raising tens of thousands of dollars annually. He takes an active role in mentoring and financially supporting international minor league players trying to adjust to playing and living in the United States. Salvador has used his status as a perennial MLB all-star by bringing young minor league players into his home, teaching them what it means to be a leader on the field, in the clubhouse, and the community.
Photo by Kansas City Royals
Pérez continued his work with Sarah’s Soldiers by supporting local police officer Sarah Olsen through her battle and assisting those battling ALS. He also partnered with Brayden’s Hope for Childhood Cancer, creating memories for local pediatric cancer patients. To give back during the pandemic lockdowns, Salvador filmed surprise and delight messages for Royals fans on social media and participated in Zoom and FaceTime calls for sick children.
“Salvador is unlike any all-star caliber player I’ve seen in my twenty-five years in that he NEVER turns down requests to visit and meet with a sick child or adult and underserved individuals,” said Jeff Davenport, major league team operations for the Royals. “There is no way to quantify what Salvador does with his time. He says “yes” to everything and does it EVERY day with his signature smile.”
Photo by Kansas City Royals
On the Field
During the 2021 season, Pérez played a career-high 161 games, including a major league-best 120 starts at catcher and matched Hall of Famer Ted Simmons’ 1973 mark for most games by a primary catcher. He won the Royals Player of the Year Award for the second straight season and was named All-MLB First Team Catcher for a second consecutive year. Salvador earned his fourth career Silver Slugger, breaking the franchise record of three held by Hall of Famer George Brett. He was named a finalist for the Hank Aaron Award and was the Royals’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.
Salvador hit forty-eight home runs, which matched Jorge Soler’s most home runs during a Royals’ season. The home runs also tied him with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the Major League lead, becoming the first Royals player ever to lead the league in HR. He led all of MLB with 122 RBI and became the sixth player in the last thirty years to lead MLB in HR and RBI in the same season. Pérez is only the second primary catcher (after Hall of Famer Johnny Bench) to lead the league in both categories. His forty-eight home runs were the most in a season by a primary catcher, eclipsing the mark set by Johnny Bench in 1970. Of his forty-eight home runs, eighteen of them gave the Royals a lead, tying with Nolan Arenado for most in MLB. Salvador led MLB with thirty-four multi-RBI games. He hit his two-hundredth career HR, becoming only the second player in Royals’ history with over two hundred career home runs. Salvador finished the 2021 season ranking in the top ten in Royals’ history in hits, doubles, HR, RBI, slugging percentage, total bases, extra base hits, and hit by pitches.
Photo by Kansas City Royals
Pérez was named an MLB All-Star for the seventh time in his career, second only to Hall of Famer George Brett with thirteen. He participated in the MLB All-Star HR Derby, setting a record for most HR by a catcher in a single HR derby, earned AL Player of the Week honors, and was named Royals Player of the Month in three of the season’s six months. As a catcher, Salvador threw out 41 percent of would-be base stealers, marking the best rate among catchers in all of MLB. He was named a finalist for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award, which he has won five times in his career (ranking third in Royals’ history).
Lou Gehrig Memorial Award Finalists
Phi Delta Theta International Fraternity, in partnership with the Permobil Foundation and the LiveLikeLou Foundation, is proud to identify and recognize finalists for its annual Lou Gehrig Memorial Award. The award’s recipient, finalists, and their respective teams will have the opportunity to surprise an individual battling ALS in their community with a brand-new, team branded, custom Permobil wheelchair.
Phi Delta Theta Fraternity and the LiveLikeLou Foundation are proud to partner with the Permobil Foundation to help give this priceless gift of mobility to ALS patients.
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Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
Giving back to the Bay Area comes naturally to Brandon Crawford, the Bay Area native who was raised in Pleasanton, California, and grew up a Giants fan attending games at both Candlestick Park and Oracle Park. He knows first-hand the impact the players and team can have on the community.
After learning about fellow Pleasanton native and Oakland A’s outfielder Stephen Piscotty’s mom succumbing to ALS, Crawford, with the help of his father, Mike, stepped up to support the Piscotty family’s mission to find a cure for ALS. The ALS Cure Project became the beneficiary of the annual Crawford Family Golf Tournament in 2019 and has since raised over two hundred thousand dollars toward research for a cure.
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Crawford is incredibly thankful for his health and the health of his family which makes him acutely sympathetic to those who aren’t as fortunate. Realizing that the children he was meeting through regular Make-A-Wish visits at Oracle Park were the same age as his kids, he developed a new perspective on the struggles those families face on a daily basis. Crawford and his wife, Jalynne, collaborated with former Giant Andrew McCutchen and his wife Maria in a collaboration called “Catch a Cure” in which proceeds from a special clothing line benefit the Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Rady Children’s Hospital. In addition to conducting their own hospital visits in the Bay Area, the Crawford’s support the efforts of teammate Buster Posey and his wife, Kristen, to raise money for research for childhood cancer.
Crawford created the Craw Claw, similar to a foam finger, to benefit Casa Colina Hospital and Centers for Healthcare, a nonprofit physical rehabilitation center in Pomona, California. Casa Colina specializes in caring for catastrophically injured patients. Jalynne Crawford’s father was treated at Casa Colina after a horrific accident and the family is dedicated to giving back to the center that gave them so much.
During the 2021 season, Crawford teamed up with the Giants Community Fund, the Good Tidings Foundation and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department to renovate Gilman Field, located in the Bayview–Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco—just blocks from Candlestick Park where Crawford fell in love with baseball. The field renovation included new dugouts, benches, and grass for the infield and outfield. It will be used by Junior Giants, the free, non-competitive youth baseball and softball program run by the Giants Community Fund, of which Crawford is a loyal supporter as well as the neighborhood kids and families.
As the son of a teacher, Crawford has prioritized supporting educational initiatives like the NBC Sports Bay Area All-Star Teacher Awards, the Step Up to the Plate for Education grant program and the Junior Giants education curriculum by lending his name and celebrating those who keep education at the forefront of our society.
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Liam Hendriks, Chicago White Sox
Since joining the White Sox organization in January, two-time All-Star closer Liam Hendriks has shown immense and unwavering support to frontline workers, underserved community groups, and those individuals and businesses heavily impacted by COVID-19.
Through his South Slydah Society, Hendriks has donated nearly 1,400 meals from more than a dozen local, minority and family-owned small businesses to frontline workers across Chicagoland, including the Engine 29 Firehouse, healthcare workers at Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, volunteers at St. James Food Pantry, the local post office, and staff from One Tail at a Time Chicago, among other essential workers and gameday ballpark staff at Guaranteed Rate Field. Notably, his contributions recognize the unheralded frontline heroes and those who have stepped up to work tireless hours and ensure essential business operations are met throughout the public health crisis.
This season, Hendriks continued his long-standing support of the LGBTQ+ community, providing lunch and White Sox-branded gifts to staff at Center on Halsted, the Midwest’s most comprehensive community center dedicated to the health and wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ community, and Howard Brown Health 63rd St. in Englewood, one of the nation’s largest organizations committed to eliminating the disparities in healthcare experienced by this community. He also helped raise the Pride flag prior to the White Sox Pride Night celebrations. Hendriks’ wife, Kristi, devoted countless hours this season at Howard Brown Health pop-up vaccination clinics, and the couple donated winter hats and socks as holiday gifts for hundreds of people at the clinics this winter.
Liam’s selfless generosity and financial support helped fund a White Sox home opener party at La Rabida Children’s Hospital in early April, where nearly 300 patients, family members, and frontline workers received treats and White Sox gifts, as well as a special get-well message for the kids and a thank you video for the hard work and perseverance of staff. The Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications’ 9-1-1 Center received a similar sentiment in July when Hendriks catered lunch for each of the three daily shifts and provided hundreds of White Sox ticket vouchers, South Slydah Society-branded hats, and raffle items to more than 300 call center workers.
In late August, Hendriks celebrated staff at the Holistic Riding Equestrian Therapy (HRET) facility in Lockport, Illinois. After visiting the stables and hearing shared stories about how life-changing this program has been for the kids these horses serve, Liam and Kristi announced a generous financial donation to help HRET make it through the winter. HRET is a riding facility that integrates the benefits of animal therapy with the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social benefits of therapeutic riding.
Hendriks’ impact extends far beyond the diamond and began long before joining the White Sox organization. As a member of the Oakland A’s—where he won the Dave Stewart Community Service Award and received two club nominations for the Roberto Clemente Award (also this year’s White Sox nominee)—Hendriks took special interest in uplifting organizations focused on animal welfare, including Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation, Fetching Tails Foundation, Mission K-9, the Petco Foundation, and the Rescue Me Thursday campaign.
Leading by example and committing time and resources to charitable initiatives founded by MLB and his peers across the league, Hendriks played an active role in Strike Out Bullying and MLB’s Shred Hate campaign, as well as Food for the Hungry and Striking Out Poverty, where he raised more than $50,000 for under-privileged communities in the Dominican Republic.