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Major League Baseball allowed Puerto Rican players the opportunity to pay tribute to Roberto Clemente during games this week by wearing his No. 21 jersey. Most of the league celebrated Roberto Clemente Day on Wednesday. However, a handful of teams were off, so more players donned No. 21 on Thursday. That includes longtime St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.

Molina, a Puerto Rico native, didn’t waste any time on the field honoring Clemente.

In his first at-bat of Thursday’s game against the Detroit Tigers (GameTracker), Molina crushed a home run to left field. After rounding the bases, Molina kissed the commemorative “21” patch on his jersey and threw his hands to sky.

“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’s Marly Rivera ahead of Thursday’s game. 

“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, 38, is the longest-tenured active Puerto Rican-born player in MLB. The Cardinals drafted Molina in out of high school in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. He’s also played for the Puerto Rican national team in four World Baseball Classic (WBC) tournaments and has managed Puerto Rico’s 23U national team. In 2018, Molina was honored as the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award.

Clemente continues to be an extraordinary source of pride for Puerto Rican ball players. The late Pittsburgh Pirates legend hit .317/.359/.475 with 240 home runs. The 1971 World Series MVP and 15-time All Star was posthumously inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973. Clemente’s life tragically ended on New Year’s Eve in 1972, when a plane he organized as part of earthquake relief for Nicaragua crashed while leaving Puerto Rico. He was 38.

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