Seattle Mariners stalwart Edgar Martinez received the Roberto Clemente Award for community service on Tuesday.

Martinez, 41, is the first Puerto Rican so honoured.

"I grew up idolizing Roberto Clemente," said Martinez, Seattle's leader in games played, batting average, hits, doubles and walks.

"Watching him play in the 1971 World Series is one of the main factors in me playing baseball. I have always admired him as a player and a person.

"He was the biggest sports figure in Puerto Rico when he played. And probably still is."

The winner is chosen annually from a list of 30 nominees, one from each ball club, by a panel which includes commissioner Bud Selig and Clemente's widow, Vera.

Martinez seemed an ideal choice because he supports such charities as Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, Children's Hospital, Overlake Hospital, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Wishing Star Foundation, United Way, Esperanza, the Page Ahead Children's Literacy Program, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Clubs and Mariners Care.

"As great a player as Edgar Martinez has been on the field, he's been a greater human being off the field," Selig said.

Martinez recently concluded his 18-year major-league career, spent entirely with the Mariners.

The most prolific designated hitter in baseball history, he retired a seven-time all-star and two-time batting champion (1992, 1995).

Martinez boasted a career batting average of .308 with 321 home runs, 1,324 runs batted in and 1,264 runs scored in 2,196 MLB games.

A contact hitter by reputation, he finished with 32 more walks than strikeouts.

Seattle signed Martinez as a non-drafted free agent on Dec. 19, 1982, and he debuted for the Mariners on Sept. 12, 1987.

Clemente was named an all-star in 12 of his 18 MLB seasons, all with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Hall of Fame right-fielder also won 12 Gold Glove Awards and four batting titles plus as well as the 1966 National League Most Valuable Player Award and 1971 World Series MVP.

Clemente collected his 3,000th hit on Sept. 30, 1972, but died in a plane crash three months later on New Year's Eve.

He was 38.

Clemente, who was delivering relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua, was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame in 1973.

with files from Sports Network