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Cubs’ Javier Baez honored to wear No. 21 on Roberto Clemente Day

Chicago Cubs shortstop Javier Baez unsurprisingly considers wearing Robert Clemente’s No. 21 when Major League Baseball honors the late Puerto Rican legend on Wednesday a profound honor.

Baez, born and raised in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, moved to the U.S. with his mother and siblings in 2005 as a young teenager. The 27-year-old remains proud of his Puerto Rican heritage, which is why he’s thrilled over being able to wear No. 21 on MLB’s annual Roberto Clemente Day.

“Wearing No. 21 is going to be a big thing,” Baez said, per the Chicago Tribune. “Bigger than people think.”

Along with Baez, teammate and fellow Puerto Rican Victor Caratini will also don the No. 21 jersey in honor of Clemente.

Across the league, all Puerto Rican players will be allowed to wear Clemente’s No. 21 on Wednesday, which marks the 19th annual celebration of the Pittsburgh Pirates legend.

St. Lous Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is MLB’s senior Puerto Rican player. He donned Clemente’s No. 21 jersey on Tuesday, as the Cardinals won’t play on Wednesday.

“It is an extraordinary honor and a source of great pride for all of us to have the opportunity to wear No. 21 to honor Roberto Clemente on this great day,” Molina told ESPN. “For all us Latinos who have played Major League Baseball, and have had to deal with so many obstacles, difficulties and challenges, Clemente is the source of inspiration we need to move forward and pursue our dreams and be an example to others on and off the field.”

Molina added: “We hope this day continues to perpetuate the remarkable legacy of No. 21.”

Clemente perished in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while accompanying a cargo plane departing San Juan, Puerto Rico on a humanitarian mission to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua.

In honor of his off-the-field commitments, Major League Baseball established the Roberto Clemente Award, which celebrates the player who demonstrates “extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”

When the shortened 2020 MLB season opened, 20 Puerto Rico-born players were on Opening Day rosters and inactive lists, the most since 2011.