PITTSBURGH — Roberto Clemente Day is one of the most celebrated days of the season across Major League Baseball.
All 30 teams across the league join together to celebrate the life and legacy of one of the game’s all-time greats.
As special the day is across the league, it’s even more so in Pittsburgh, the city in which Clemente spent his entire major league career.
For the Pirates, every uniformed member, from players to coaches, wears No. 21 on the backs of their jerseys to mark the occasion. At PNC Park, they even etch No. 21 into the outfield grass in right field.
Right field just so happens to be where Joshua Palacios, who is part Puerto Rican on his father’s side, was stationed on Friday night against the New York Yankees. It wasn’t a coincidence.
“Yeah, there was definitely some purpose to that,” manager Derek Shelton said. “He was going to play today but when (bench coach Don Kelly) and I talked about it last night it, we thought ‘yeah, this is how this should go down.'”
Before the game even started, Palacios was the unexpected recipient of a very cool experience during an interview with MLB Network.
During his interview, Clemente’s game-worn jersey, bat and glove were all brought out for Palacios to check out. It was something that he will certainly never forget. He even got to try on the glove.
“That was pretty sick,” he said. “I rubbed it all over myself, tried to get everything I could out of it. See if his bat had some hits left in there. But it was pretty amazing. The bat was actually pretty interesting — kinda heavy bat. The wool jersey, surprised they played in that. It looked like it was kind of itchy. And then the glove, just a testament. These guys didn’t have a lot of resources, but they were still dominant in the game. It was pretty amazing to see.”
As the game was about to commence and the Pirates were ready to take the field, Palacios created another memorable moment.
He led the team out of the dugout as he raced towards ’21’ in right field. In his hand? A giant Puerto Rican flag which he waved in front of fans sitting atop the Clemente Wall.
“That was one of the biggest energetic, goosebump moments that I had this year,” he said. “It was pretty crazy. Running out there with the flag, you just feel the energy and feel the aura and everything he did for the city, everything he left behind. It was indescribable.”
For 21. 🇵🇷 pic.twitter.com/XrvabstT7x
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) September 15, 2023
As for the game itself, the Pirates weren’t able to hold a lead and fell 7-5 to the Yankees.
For Palacios, that Clemente bat must have had one more hit in it. The Pirates’ right fielder finished the game 1 for 4 with a run scored. He now has a four-game hitting streak and has at least one hit in seven of his last nine games played.
Though the Pirates came up short in their efforts, Clemente Day again made for a special night across the league.
For Palacios, it was perhaps the most memorable moment for him this season in a year in which the big moments seem to always find him.