Following in the footsteps of a parent is never easy, especially when your father happens to be a cultural icon. Roberto Clemente Jr. understood this better than most, and in 1984, insisted on pursing a career in baseball on his own terms. After achieving a decent amount of success in his native Puerto Rico, Clemente moved to Florida to attend community college and draw interest from the major leagues.
Receiving little interest from his father’s Pittsburgh Pirates, the eighteen year-old signed with the Phillies and was immediately placed in the Gulf Coast League. Team scouts projected Clemente as a line drive-hitting outfielder that could eventually develop power, but he fell well below these expectations. Struggling mightily in the rookie league, the Phillies assigned the young righty to the non-affiliate Gastonia Jets before releasing him outright in 1985. Clemente would attempt to continue his career in 1986 with the San Diego Padres’ A affiliate, but injuries and a lack of desire temporarily convinced him to set his sights beyond his childhood dream. A final attempt with the Baltimore Orioles organization was made in 1989 before a back injury left Clemente temporarily paralyzed.
Today, Clemente follows his father’s legacy in another field: charity work. Since establishing the Roberto Clemente Foundation in the mid-nineties, the younger Clemente has worked with the RBI Program to bring baseball to the inner cities, namely in Puerto Rico and Pittsburgh. Most recently, Clemente has worked with his siblings on “Clemente: The True Legacy of an Undying Hero”, a book chronicling his father’s rise to immortality.
Photo: Bob Bartosz