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Thursday, September 16, 2010
Vernon Wells honored for work with kids

Associated Press

DENVER -- Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells is the winner of the 2010 Branch Rickey Award in recognition of his work with kids in the community.

Wells
Wells

Created by the Rotary Club of Denver in 1991, the Branch Rickey Award honors individuals in baseball who contribute to their communities and are strong role models for young people.

Each year, major league teams nominate a player, coach or executive, either active or retired, for the award. Last year's winner was Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter.

Wells, 31, will be honored at a banquet in Denver on Nov. 13.

"Any time you can win an award with Branch Rickey's name attached to it, it's an honor," Wells said. "You try to do as much as you can to try to make an impact on as many people's lives as you can in this game. Sometimes, you get rewards like this."

The award is named in honor of the late baseball executive known for creating the framework for the modern minor league farm system and for breaking baseball's color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson, the first black player in the major leagues.

An advocate for underprivileged children, he spearheaded the development of the famous "Knot Hole Gang," to allow kids to attend big league games.

"It is special," Wells said. "It's an honor just to be even mentioned, to be a nominee. It's a lot bigger than winning that award. It's about trying to change lives. I'm blessed to be in a position where I can give back -- not only money, but in time -- and try to make an impact on lives. This is just one of the good things that comes along with it."

Wells donated $1 million in 2007 to the Jays Care Foundation, which was created to empower and inspire children. Last year, he and his wife, Charlene, founded the Perfect 10 Foundation to support single mothers and children in need in north Texas.

Wells has played his entire career in Toronto and has been picked to two All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger award.