Clemente Sons Choose Non-Baseball Careers
For years following Roberto Clemente’s death, Pittsburgh Pirates fans hoped to see another Clemente -- either eldest son Roberto Jr. or the younger Luis or Enrique -- play right field.
It is apparent as the 15th anniversary of Clemente’s fatal plane crash approaches, that is not going to happen. After briefly playing minor-league ball, the two elder sons have chosen other careers. Enrique, the youngest and still in high school, is most interested in mechanics.
But there still is a chance that Pirate fans some day may look into right field and see a young player falling to the ground after making a Clemente-type throw to home plate.
Former National Leaguer Jerry Morales, who as a teenager was taught the principles of outfield defense by Clemente, is now teaching those same methods to amateur players in Puerto Rico.
Morales remembers the first time he received instruction from Clemente as sharply as if it occurred yesterday.
“When I was 15, he came to my hometown for a clinic,” Morales said. “I remember everything, particularly the things he taught me about playing the outfield. It helped me my whole career.
“He showed me the way to throw the ball, and the way to catch it, and the best way to hit the cutoff man, and he taught me how to learn to anticipate where the ball would come.”
Morales later attended other clinics staged by Clemente, and he learned his lessons well. He spent more than 10 years in the majors and was a member of the National League All-Star team in 1977. He left baseball with a fielding percentage in the .980s.
But one of Morales’ proudest moments in baseball in his late teens came when Clemente selected Morales as a member of the Puerto Rican all-star team he was managing.
“I was playing center field, right next to him in right field,” Morales said. “It was a thrill. Everything he taught me helped me my whole career, and I try to teach the kids the same way.”
Also helping to keep alive Clemente’s approach to sports is his niece, Carmen Luisa, whom he raised as a daughter. Carmen Clemente is the director of the program for the handicapped at the Roberto Clemente Sports City.
“After Roberto, I was the best athlete in the family,” says Carmen, 34, who competed internationally in track.
“When I was little, he taught me everything. He taught me baseball, and how to run. He would say to me, ‘Carmen Luisa, when you grow up you will be a physical education teacher.’ He wanted me to study that because he knew how much I loved sports, and I did.
“Once, when I was about 15, I went to St. Louis for a track meet, and the Pirates were in town to play the Cardinals. My coach gave me two special treats, he sent me once to the ballpark to see Roberto play and he allowed me to go to visit him.
“I won my event, and that day Roberto was supposed to be on his way to another city. But when I went up to the podium to get my medal, he came too, and there was so much applause, I said, ‘It is for him, not me.’ But it was for both. He presented me with my medal.”