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'Awards season' honors PG alumni

Jeff Dahn

Published: Sunday, November 18, 2012

Professional baseball essentially divides its calendar year into four distinct time slots: preseason, regular season, postseason and offseason. There is also a fifth spoke in the wheel that could accurately be described as “awards season”, a roughly two-week span in early November when the honored winners collect their spoils.

Once the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants had soaked up the last of their celebratory champagne, a solid core of Perfect Game alumni, including Giants catcher Buster Posey, could count themselves among the biggest of the big winners.

With the completion of the 2012 awards season, Perfect Game can take a great deal of pride in the recognition many of its most prominent alumni received from Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball and several of their sponsors and affiliates. No one was more honored than Los Angeles Angels rookie center fielder Mike Trout, an alumnus of eight Perfect Game WWBA tournaments in 2007 and 2008.

Trout won the American League Rookie of the Year Award, a Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award and a Players Choice Award, and was runner-up to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera from the American League pennant-winning Detroit Tigers in the voting for the AL Most Valuable Player.

On the evening of Nov. 13, one day after winning the AL ROY Award, Trout attended a banquet in New York City to receive the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association’s overall Heart and Hustle Award given to an active player “who demonstrates a passion for the game and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of baseball.”

At the ceremony, Trout said:

“I’d like to thank the Alumni Association, players, fans and especially the Angels organization for giving me the opportunity to play this year. I’m just out there having fun. I take pride in these awards. I go out there and give 110-percent every time and leave it all on the field. There’s only one thing in baseball, and I think it’s to win and just have fun.”

Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen collected nearly as much hardware as Trout during the awards season. An alumnus of the 2004 PG/Aflac All-American Classic and the 2004 Perfect Game National Showcase, McCutchen became a first-time winner of both the Rawlings Gold Glove Award and the Louisville Silver Slugger Award.

Just 25-years-old, he earned his second All-Star Game appearance, was the Players Choice Awards National League Outstanding Player and finished third in the NL Most Valuable Player Award balloting behind the Giants’ Posey and the Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun. McCutchen hit .327/.400/.553 with 31 home runs, 96 RBI, 107 runs and 20 stolen bases while leading the NL with 194 hits.

McCutchen and Posey were teammates on the East squad at the 2004 PG/Aflac All-American Classic, a game in which McCutchen set an event record with four hits. Both were also at the 2004 PG National Showcase.

Bryce Harper, an alumnus of the 2009 PG/Aflac All-American Classic and 10 other PG tournaments and showcases, somehow managed to live up to his years-long hype and won the National League Rookie of the Year Award while helping the Washington Nationals to the NL East Division championship and the best record in baseball. That award was the only one pocketed by Harper, but he showed he’s going to be a formidable forece in the game for many years to come.

San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley, an alumnus of the 2001 PG WWBA World Championship, was also well-decorated. Named to the National League All-Star Team and fifth in the NL MVP voting, Headley led the league in RBI with 115 while hitting .286 with 31 homers. He earned his first Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award as the NL’s top offensive third baseman and his first Rawlings Gold Glove Award.

What follows is a recap of several of the honors and recognition PG alumni that played professionally in 2012 received either during or after the season. Links to more detailed stories that were previously posted at are provided when applicable:

 Buster Posey wins NL MVP

It really was a remarkable season for the well-liked and well-respected Posey, and winning the National League Most Valuable Player Award was a perfect way to cap the campaign.

A 25-year-old native of Leesburg, Ga., Posey led the NL with a .336 batting average and a 172 OPS+ while smacking 24 home runs and 39 doubles with 103 RBI in 148 games. He was especially effective down the stretch, hitting .385 with 23 doubles, 14 home runs and 60 RBI in 71 games after the All-Star break while leading the Giants to the NL West Division championship.

He was 4-for-15 (.267) with a home run and three RBI in the Giants’ four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, their second World Championship in three years.

Posey is the first catcher to win a NL batting title in 70 years and became the third catcher to win a Rookie of the Year Award (he won in 2010) and a Most Valuable Player Award while playing for a team that won the World Series. The other two are Johnny Bench from the Cincinnati Reds and Thurman Munson from the Yankees.

Posey also received a pair of awards as the NL Comeback Player of the Year, won the Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award as the NL’s top offensive catcher and the NL Hank Aaron Award as the league’s best hitter.

 Mike Trout, Bryce Harper win AL, NL ROY Awards

Of all the accolades that came Trout’s way at seasons’ end, winning the American League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year in a unanimous vote has to be considered his crowning achievement.
For Harper, winning the National League Jackie Robinson NL Rookie of the Year provided some validation after not making the big-league club out of spring training. Trout also started the season in Triple-A.

Trout, 21, became the youngest player to ever win the AL ROY Award. Harper, who turned 20 on Oct. 16, is the youngest position player to ever receive the NL ROY Award.

The selections of Trout and Harper mark the fifth straight year a Perfect Game alumnus has earned one of the two Rookie of the Year awards. The Tampa Bay Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson won the AL honor in 2011; Posey won the NL award in 2010; the Florida Marlins’ Chris Coghlan was the NL winner in 2009; and the Chicago Cubs’ Geovany Soto took NL honors in 2008.

The duo’s Perfect Game careers never intersected, but came tantalizing close. Both were scheduled to be at the 2008 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. – playing for different teams – when Harper was denied permission to attend by his Las Vegas high school because he had already missed too much class time. He left that high school shortly thereafter, obtained his GED, went to a junior college and was the No. 1 overall  selection in the 2010 MLB amateur draft.

They did get to know each other while playing in the Arizona Fall League in 2011, and became close friends. In an interview with reporter Bill Ladson, Trout was asked to compare his game to Harper’s:

“We play the game the right way,” he said. “We’re always running out balls, he’s always hustling trying to make that big play, and we’re doing everything we can to try and help the team win. That’s what I like about him. He’s 100 percent effort every game. You watch him play, he’s running out pop-ups in the infield and making that incredible play at such a young age; it’s fun to watch.”

Perfect Game alumni Todd Frazier, a versatile corner-infielder for the Cincinnati Reds, and Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Wade Miley joined Harper as finalists for the NL ROY Award.

David Price wins AL Cy Young Award

Zach Greinke broke down the door when he became the first Perfect Game alumnus to win a Cy Young Award for the American League Kansas City Royals in 2009, and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw followed suit by winning the NL honor in 2011.

David Price, the Tampa Bay Rays sensational left-hander, equaled Greinke’s and Kershaw’s feat when he was named the winner of the 2012 AL Cy Young Award in voting by the BBWAA.

In July of 2003, Price played in the WWBA Junior Division National Championship (now known as the PG WWBA 17u National Championship) with the Chattanooga Colonels. Coming out of high school, he was ranked No. 51 in the class of 2004 by Perfect Game. He went on to enjoy a stellar career at Vanderbilt and was the No. 1 overall pick by the Rays in the 2007 draft.

Veteran knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets won the NL Cy Young Award. Kershaw and PG/Aflac All-American Gio Gonzalez from the Nationals joined Dickey as finalists for the award.

5 PG alumni receive Players Choice Awards

One of the most satisfying awards a major league ballplayer can receive is the coveted Players Choice Awards, in which the players themselves vote for what they recognize as their peer’s most outstanding performances. McCutchen, Trout, Posey, Price and Frazier were all honored.

McCutchen was named the National League Outstanding Player, Trout received the American League Outstanding Rookie award and Posey was named the NL Comeback Player of the Year. Frazier, who played in the PG WWBA World Championship in 2003, was named the NL Outstanding Rookie, and Price won the AL Outstanding Pitcher award.

Frazier, a New Jersey native like Trout, hit .273 with 19 home runs and 67 RBI to help the Reds to their second NL Central Division championship in three years. Price was 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 211 innings pitched.

 9 Gold Gloves go to deserving PG alumni

One of first postseason honors announced were the winners of the annual Rawlings Gold Glove Award, and nine of the 19 prestigious defensive awards went to Perfect Game alumni.

Rays right-hander Hellickson, Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy and Athletics right fielder Josh Reddick were among the first-time recipients on the AL Gold Glove team, while PG graduates receiving their second Gold Gloves included Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, Royals left fielder Alex Gordon and Orioles center fielder Adam Jones.

The Pirates’ McCutchen, the Padres’ Headley and Atlanta Braves right-fielder Jason Heyward were first time recipients on the NL squad. Hellickson and McCutchen played in the 2004 PG/Aflac All-American Classic and Heyward played in the 2006 Classic.

Silver Slugger Awards to 9 PG grads

Perfect Game alumni accounted for exactly half of the 18 Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award winners announced on Nov. 8. The winners were determined by a vote of MLB managers and coaches that named the players they felt were the top offensive producers at each position in each league.

The Angels’ Trout, Detroit first baseman Prince Fielder and Kansas City designated hitter Billy Butler are all PG graduates who represented their respective positions on the nine-man American League team. The Silver Slugger award was the third for Fielder – an alumnus of the 2001 PG National Showcase – and the first for both Trout and Butler.

McCutchen and Posey were among those named on the NL side. They were joined by the Padres’ Headley, Washington shortstop Ian Desmond, Cincinnati outfielder Jay Bruce and Washington right-hander Stephen Strasburg, all alumni of numerous PG WWBA tournament. McCutchen and Posey were both at the 2004 PG National Showcase and Desmond attended the 2004 PG World Showcase.

Headley, Desmond, Bruce, McCutchen, Posey and Strasburg were all first-time winners.

 Record 23 PG alumni were MLB All-Stars

The first recognition Perfect Game alumni received from Major League Baseball came in early July with the announcement of the American League and National League rosters for the 83rd MLB All-Star Game, held this year at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

A record 23 PG alumni earned roster spots, including AL starting first baseman Fielder from the Tigers, NL starting catcher Posey from the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants and starting first baseman Joey Votto from the Reds.

Posey (2004) was one of three PG/Aflac All-American Classic alumni named to represent their respective league. The others were the Nationals’ Gonzalez (2003) and the Pirates’ McCutchen (2004).

 PG guys dominate All-Star Futures Game rosters

Just a week before the All-Star Game selections, the 25-man United States team and World team rosters for the 14th annual Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game were announced, and 29 of the 50 players, including 23 of the 25 on the United States roster, participated in Perfect Game events while they were in high school.

Eleven of those players were PG/Aflac All-American alumni, including right-hander Zack Wheeler, second baseman Scooter Gennett and first baseman Jonathan Singleton, all of whom played in the 2008 Classic.

The other All-American Classic alumni who represented their MLB organizations on the U.S. squad were right-handers Dylan Bundy (2010 Classic), Gerrit Cole (2007), Alex Meyer (2007) and Jameson Taillion (2009); and outfielder Tyler Austin (2009). Catcher Yasmani Grandal (2006), shortstop Francisco Lindor (2010) and right-hander Jose Fernandez (2010) were on the World team roster.

Ten of those 11 players also attended the Perfect Game National Showcase between 2006 and 2010, with Bundy being the exception. Bundy did attend the 2009 PG Junior National Showcase, however.

 AFL Rising Stars Game showcase for PG alumni

Seven more recent PG/Aflac All-Americans were selected to play in this year’s MLB Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz., early this month.

A total of 39 Perfect Game graduates, including 17 PG National Showcase alumni, were included among the 52 players chosen for the seventh annual exhibition, held to showcase the AFL’s top players from the season just completed.

The seven PG/Aflac All-Americans that participated were right-hander Jarred Cosart (a top prospect in the Astros organization); infielders Kaleb Cowart (L.A. Angels), Ricky Oropesa (Giants), Jonathan Singleton (Astros) and Hunter Morris (Brewers); outfielder Brian Goodwin (Nationals); and catcher Mike Zunino (Mariners).

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