Vernon Wells was honoured Thursday as the winner of the 2010 Branch Rickey Award in recognition of his work with kids in the community.
The honour was first created by the Rotary Club of Denver in 1991 in memory of the late great president and general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals and Brooklyn Dodgers.
Rickey was best known as the executive who broke the major-league colour barrier, signing Jackie Robinson and debuting him in 1947 – the first black player in MLB history.
“Any time you can win an award with Branch Rickey’s name attached to it, it’s an honour,” Wells said to the Associated Press.
“You try to do as much as you can to try to make an impact on as many people’s lives as you can in this game. Sometimes, you get rewards like this.”
As an annual achievement, it recognizes individuals in baseball who contribute to their communities and are strong role models for young people.
Major league teams nominate a player, coach or executive, who is either active or retired, for the award.
Last year, Torii Hunter of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was the winner.
Wells’s contribution to the community as well as his Perfect 10 Foundation for single moms and their children garnered the attention of his peers.
His organization, in partnership with the Christian organization Arms of Hope, began construction last April on eight homes for single mothers and their children on the campus of the Boles Children’s Home in Quinlan, Texas.
Another program supported by the 31-year-old is the organization he helped develop, “Knot Hole Gang,” which allowed underprivileged children a chance to attend big league games.
The centre fielder donated $1 million (US) in 2007 to the Jays Care Foundation, created to empower and inspire children.
“It is special,” Wells said to the Associated Press. “It’s an honour just to be even mentioned, to be a nominee.
“It’s a lot bigger than winning that award. It’s about trying to change lives. I’m blessed to be in a position where I can give back — not only money, but in time — and try to make an impact on lives.
“This is just one of the good things that comes along with it.”
The three-time gold glover became the second Jay to win the award since its inception in 1992. Dave Winfield was the inaugural winner of Rickey while a member of the Blue Jays.