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Stenson Award finalists announced
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11/16/2004 10:38 PM ET
Stenson Award finalists announced
Six from AFL chosen for hard work, leadership qualities
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Pedro Lopez has been called "a great teammate" by his fellow Solar Sox. (Stacey Flores)

The first annual AFL Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award will be given out in an on-field ceremony on Thursday. On Tuesday, the six finalists for the award were announced.

The manager, coaches and players from each team were asked to nominate one player. The AFL, in conjunction with, will then select one winner from the six nominees.

This year the six finalists are: Curtis Granderson (Detroit), Grand Canyon Rafters; Ben Johnson (San Diego), Peoria Javelinas; Pedro Lopez (White Sox), Mesa Solar Sox; Freddy Sanchez (Pittsburgh), Pirates; Mark Teahen (Kansas City), Phoenix Desert Dogs; Rickie Weeks (Milwaukee), Scottsdale Scorpions.

The six were chosen not because of their stats or on-field performances, but rather because their peers and coaches believed they best demonstrated the qualities Stenson brought to the ballpark every day; these prospects were unselfish, hard working and they displayed tremendous leadership, either by example or vocally, or both.

Stenson, a former member of the Reds organization, was tragically murdered last November while in the midst of a terrific AFL season.

The winner will be presented with a plaque in a special on-field presentation on Thursday. In addition, will make a donation to the charity of the winner's choosing.

The AFL has donated a one-of-a-kind AFL jersey worn by Mike Piazza in 1993 that was later autographed by the Mets' All-Star catcher, which will be be auctioned off on The auction will run until Wednesday at noon ET and the proceeds will be used for the charitable donation.

To get a better appreciation for what these players stand for, lets hear what their AFL teammates had to say about what made them stand out.

Curtis Granderson, Rafters
"'Grandi' is a terrific athlete with a huge heart," Twins pitching prospect J.D. Durbin said. "His abilities extend on the field and off of it. He not only cares about your career, but about your family and their well-being. Our conversations in the outfield are about everything, not just baseball."

Ben Johnson, Javelinas
"I'd say he fits the criteria," fellow Padres product Chris Oxspring said. "He's very professional. He always wants to do all the work put in front of him. He's definitely someone I would consider for the award if I were deciding.

"I've played with B.J. a few different years on different clubs. He was telling me he had 51 line drive outs during the year. He's had something like 20 more here in the AFL. Yet he still comes back to the dugout with a smile on his face, laughing about how he hit another one hard right at someone. Things like that don't seem to get him down."

Pedro Lopez, Solar Sox
"One of the best things about playing with Pedro Lopez, not having known him for a long time, is you can tell how hard he works," Cubs catcher Jake Fox said. "He's always the first one in the locker room and he's always the last one out. And he always has a smile on his face. You can tell he's having fun. That's one of the best teammates to have, a guy who has fun. It helps you have fun doing what you do. A lot of the time this job has a lot of hard things to deal with, so a guy that works hard like that and has fun helps you enjoy your time a lot more.

"He's a great teammate to have and great to have around. That's what's going to get you to the top: working hard, having fun and getting people on your side because they love to play with you."

Freddy Sanchez, Saguaros
"As far as the game, he's just a scrappy player all-around," Rangers prospect Ian Kinsler said. "They think of a scrappy player as one who doesn't have the skills or tools, but he's got the skills. Sometimes when guys are toolsy, they don't think they have to play hard, but he has the tools and he plays hard. I think that's special.

"As far as pregame stuff, he just goes about everything the right way. He keeps everyone loose. He works hard in BP. I'm trying to learn a new position at second and he's helped me a lot. I would think a guy who's been in the big leagues wouldn't want to help someone like me learn how to turn two, but he did."

Mark Teahen, Desert Dogs
"I hit fungoes to him during BP," Phillies pitcher Keith Bucktrot said. "I get work done with him. The whole time during BP, he's taking ground balls. He goes about his business calm and collected. He's a no hassle kind of guy. He doesn't take anything for granted. I was at the prospect panel discussion with him and everything he had to say was very professional and wasn't cocky. He's a very stand-up guy. That's why he got my vote. Day in and day out, he did everything right."

Rickie Weeks, Scorpions
"He's one of the strongest guys, mentally, I've ever seen," said Tony Gwynn Jr., Weeks' teammate in Double-A Huntsville and in Scottsdale this fall. "Nothing ever bothers him. He's very even-keeled, never getting too up or too down. That's what sets him apart.

"Not everybody is willing to put in the extra work when they have that much naturla althetic ability. He still works on his tools. The more and more work he puts in, the better he's going to get.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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