ST. LOUIS — The shirts are all over Twitter, and have peppered the seats of Busch Stadium all season. On the front, a backwards K, the symbol of a looking strikeout in baseball books. Stretched out below it, the word cancer. On the inside is a quote from Roberto Clemente, reading, “Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth.”
St. Louis reliever Jason Motte came up with the idea for the shirts, and has done his best to live by the words inside them.
Motte has worked tirelessly to raise awareness and money in the fight against pediatric cancer, hosting fundraisers in St. Louis and Memphis, Tennessee, representing Cardinal Glennon's Homers 4 Health and K's for Kids initiatives, working with the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure and volunteering for local nonprofits.
Tuesday, Motte was nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award, designed to honor an MLB player who best represents the game of baseball through contributions on and off the field.
“This is something that we love to do. Me and my wife do the brunt of everything, it’s pretty much me and her doing a lot of it,” Motte said. “With 108 [Stitches] helping out and I know the [Player’s Association] has helped out a ton this year getting different guys and stuff like that.”
The K Cancer shirts are by far the most visible manifestation of Motte’s work, stretching across the country and appearing in every stadium in baseball.
For more information, visit JasonMotteFoundation.org
The Strikeout Cancer initiative, begun during Motte’s season off as he recovered from surgery, grew to a fever pitch in 2014, culminating in Strike Out Cancer Night across the entire league on September 2.
Proceeds from that night were split between the Jason Motte Foundation and a cancer-based charitable organization chosen by a player from each team. The demand was so high the website crashed twice, according to Motte.
“It shows there’s some stuff that’s kind of bigger than the game out there,” he said, noting the contributions of the other Clemente Award nominees. “You look at all the guys who are nominated and these guys do some really great stuff. They’re all pretty good ball players, but it’s important to them to help others.”
Every team in the league nominates one player, and Motte’s work in the fight against cancer (ongoing since 2010) has made him the club’s 2014 choice. The Cardinals have a recent winner in Carlos Beltran, who was honored for his work with his baseball academy in Puerto Rico along with his foundation’s work in the St. Louis area. In discussing the nomination, Motte mentioned Beltran a couple of times, pointing to the long history the Cardinals have of players working even harder off the field.
“Me and Carlos were talking last year and he made a point that you make time for what you want to make time for,” he said. “This is something that’s important to me.”
Motte is tireless in his engagement of supporters on Twitter, and makes time every game to meet and greet guests in the dugout. His work has taken him to hospitals around the country, and has made him a national figure even in a season that his seen his appearances on the field diminish.
“Being recognized for it is pretty cool, but we do it to help people. That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “We do it to help the ones on my wrist,” he paused to point at the bracelets running up his forearm. “I’ve got a bat there, I’ve got about 70-75 bracelets in my car.”
Fans can vote on which a recipient for the award by going to ChevyBaseball.com. Voting ends October 6.