Paul Kutch's Clemente Collection
It will be an emotional moment for Paul Kutch this December when he visits the area where Roberto Clemente's plane went down.
The Newark, Delaware native plans to have the Clemente family take him to the crash site off the coast of Puerto Rico so he can throw flowers and a baseball into the ocean to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his hero's death.
The pilgrimage will be part of Kutch's fifth trip to the Latin country to help the late superstar's family raise money for the Roberto Clemente Sports City - a facility in Clemente's hometown that provides less fortunate children with instruction in different recreational activities.
"I think my relationship with the family was really strengthened in 1997 when I paid my own way to Puerto Rico to help with a fundraising event...At the end of the event, I was recognized and given a standing ovation for my help," says Kutch.
And if flying thousands of miles isn't proof enough that he's Clemente's biggest fan, Kutch has also helped the family with events in Pittsburgh and with the official Roberto Clemente website (www.robertoclemente21.com). The IBM employee has named his son Dylan Clemente Kutch and is the proud owner of what is likely the world's largest collection of Clemente memorabilia.
When you consider he wasn't born until 1966 (making him only six when Clemente died), his devotion is even more remarkable.
"I went to a game with my dad at Three Rivers Stadium in 1971, but I don't remember much," says Kutch. "But when I was little, all my dad would talk about was the Pirates and the Steelers. I remember reading a book about Clemente and I liked what he stood for."
Like most young boys, Kutch collected baseball cards, but he didn't seriously start collecting Clemente until 1984. Now, with more than 1,700 items - including cards, photos, autographs, bats, and gloves - his collection has consumed his entire basement.
"There's a lot of love in my collection," says Kutch, who has accumulated items through card shops, shows, and the Internet. "Some people may have more valuable collections, but as for pure quantity, I think I have them beat."
His favorite pieces include an original Clemente tribute patch that the Pirates wore on their uniforms in 1973 and a rare 1962 bobblehead doll (valued at approximately $2500).
He also owns the banner created to pay tribute to Clemente's all-star selections at the 1994 All-Star Game held in Pittsburgh.
"The Clemente family really wants this banner. I tell them I'll trade it for one of Roberto's Gold Gloves," jokes Kutch.
While a collector first, Kutch also sells duplicates from his collection on eBay and at shows. One of his favorite events to set up at is the PirateFest held in January each year.
"I get to hear such great stories about Clemente," says Kutch. "I still eat it up...I love hearing the stories."
It was at the All-Star Fanfest in 1994 that he met the Clemente family for the first time; his relationship with the family is one of the reasons he continues to build his collection. Like most collectors, he also enjoys "the thrill of the chase."
"There can't be much more out there," says Kutch. "But if I see something that I don't have, I gotta have it."
In the new year, if all goes as planned, Kutch will be selling Clemente merchandise on a full-time basis.
"I'm working on becoming the exclusive distributor of Roberto Clemente products for the entire United States and Puerto Rico," says Kutch, who has already set up a website to support his venture (www.clementesclubhouse.com). "This would involve me selling products at wholesale prices to retail stores. I would be working with the Clemente family and companies like the Pittsburgh Pirates to develop products. At this point, the Clemente family sees a definite need for this and I have a definite want to do this."
Clemente's Official Site
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