Story by Joy Frank-Collins, via piratesbreakdown.com.
Josh Harrison lives a blessed life and he knows it. That’s what drives him to give back to the Pittsburgh community, his hometown of Cincinnati and other communities across the country. His efforts, through direct fundraising or just lending his star power to an event, have helped countless children and families and caught the attention of his Pittsburgh Pirates teammates, who selected him as the team’s 2017 Roberto Clemente Award winner.
Named after Pittsburgh Pirates great and even greater humanitarian Roberto Clemente, the award is given to the member of every MLB team who, according to MLB, “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team,” during the regular season.
“It certainly is a big honor,” Harrison shared recently via email. “It means a lot to me that the guys take notice of not only what I do on the field, but what I do away from the ballpark, too.”
Harrison makes times for countless charitable endeavors every season, so tabulating everything he’s done is nearly impossible. But a few efforts really stand out to him, including the Blessings in a Backpack program.
According to their website, the national initiative mobilizes communities, individuals and resources to provide food on the weekends for elementary school children across America who might otherwise go hungry. Harrison’s involvement with the program in Pittsburgh, which includes an annual fundraising dinner, dates back five years.
For the Kids
His community service tends to gravitate towards opportunities involving kids.
“I love helping kids and those families in need. Having a daughter of my own and another on the way that my wife and I can provide for puts things into perspective. There are a lot of kids and families that don’t have necessities and I try to help anyway I can,” he said.
He took that to the next level in 2016, starting the Josh and Brittney Harrison’s for Hope Foundation along with wife, Brittney. The mission of the organization is original and often overlooked – to provide clothing to children from the cradle through college. It’s an effort he’s proud of and with good reason. In their inaugural year, they hosted a “Base-Ball” fundraiser, which raised $130,000, and also a baby shower for 50 new and expectant moms in Pittsburgh.
“We talked about doing something many years ago.” he said. “We have it in our hearts to help people.”
The Harrisons created the foundation with the help of the Cincinnati-based organization Prolanthopy, which helps professional athletes establish charitable funds. They also help them run the foundation itself and plan events, etc. “It’s a huge help having so many people take time out of their schedules to help us,” he said. “We’re blessed.”
With the crushing schedule of a major league baseball player, Harrison gives a lot of credit to his wife for helping him manage his playing responsibilities and efforts to give back.
“Britt definitely helps me a lot in this area. We try to plan around our playing schedule and day games,” he said. Others also pitch in, including members of their foundation board of directors as well as Pirates employees.
Making the Most of His Time on Earth
Receiving the team Clemente award, which puts the recipient in the running for the league-wide award (voted on by fans and members of the media), is an honor for anyone. But Harrison acknowledged that it means a bit more from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team Clemente represented.
“We see images of Roberto every day here at PNC Park. I tap the sign leading down the dugout every time I pass under it. Roberto was one of the greatest humanitarians. He not only helped people around Pittsburgh, but in his [home Puerto Rico] and anywhere else that he felt needed assistance. It’s great that they named a prestigious community-based award after him and even better that we get to represent the same uniform he once wore,” Harrison said.
Harrison is also a finalist for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award through the MLB Players’ Association. The award is given annually to the MLB player “whose on-field performance and contributions to his community inspire others to higher levels of achievement,” according to the MLBPA. Harrison is “humbled to receive the nomination,” he said.
“Being nominated for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award just brings together the culmination of everything we do in the community in the course of the season, both in Pittsburgh and around the other cities in Major League Baseball,” he added.
While awards and accolades are fine, they’re far from what inspires the effervescent second baseman (and his wife) to give back. That comes straight from the heart, he said. “It’s something that Brittney and I have always wanted to do. We always like to take the time to help those in need.”