Strasburg honored at college awards
Nats' No. 1 overall pick named player, pitcher of the year
LUBBOCK, Texas -- Stephen Strasburg's moment in the national spotlight isn't over yet by any means.
If anything, the Nationals' No. 1 overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft added even more anticipation to his professional career by racking up honors at the inaugural College Baseball Foundation Awards Show at United Spirit Arena here Thursday night.
Strasburg was awarded both the Dick Howser National Player of the Year trophy and National Pitcher of the Year honors. He beat out the likes of Mike Leake, the Arizona State pitcher picked eighth overall by the Reds, and Dustin Ackley, the North Carolina outfielder selected second overall by the Mariners.The College Baseball Foundation Awards show can be viewed in its entirety on Monday afternoon exclusively on MLB.com. The event was Strasburg's first public appearance since the June 9 Draft and featured many other future and past stars in attendance. Despite all of his success on and off the field in 2009, the San Diego State product found himself surprised at the announcement. "I'm very surprised," Strasburg said. "When you have Mike Leake and Dustin Ackley going up there against you, you never know what's going to happen. It's a tremendous honor and I'm extremely thankful. A lot of blood, sweat and tears really paid off."
Strasburg said his awards were if nothing else, "a testament that hard work really does pay off in the long run." The awards presentation continued what has been a marathon of accolades for the young hurler, beginning with the Draft last month. While it's all been fun, Strasburg said, the announcement of the Howser trophy was one of his proudest moments.
"This is a big highlight," Strasburg said. "Obviously Draft day was amazing experience. But this award is such a tremendous honor. It's really hard to express into words."Strasburg was more than happy to share the evening with his closer from San Diego State, sophomore Addison Reed, named the national Stopper of the Year. Reed tallied 20 saves on the season to back up Strasburg and the Aztecs, with a miniscule 0.65 ERA.
"It's very exciting," Reed said. "Everything here has been great. Just to be in the same room with all these other players. You've got a bunch of Hall of Famers here and all the other college athletes that are here, it's been fun so far and hopefully it will keep getting better."Pitching alongside Strasburg at San Diego State, Reed is no stranger to sharing the limelight with the flamethrower. So it seemed especially fitting that he shared this night with his teammate as well.
"Being teammates we spent a lot of time together and become close friends," Reed said. "It's exciting. For him to get Pitcher of the Year and for me to get Closer of the Year, it's a big deal. It's cool to be here with him."
Moving out of the San Diego State award contingent, Ben Orloff, the shortstop at University of California at Irvine, nabbed the Brooks Wallace Award, named for a former Texas Tech star who died of cancer at age 27. This season marked the first that the award has exclusively been given to a shortstop. Orloff hit .358 in his senior season with the Anteaters.
Orloff, who has already begun his professional career with Houston Astros' affiliated Tri-City Valley Cats, said he was honored at the recognition.
"It's unbelievable," Orloff said. "I think for me to be associated with Brooks Wallace is something that words just can't describe. ...It's an unbelievable honor."
The nation's top collegiate catching honor -- the Johnny Bench Award - was handed to Oklahoma catcher J.T. Wise. The senior backstop was drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The night's accolades continued in the coaching category. After leading his team to its' first ever College World Series appearance, Virginia manager Brian O'Connor was awarded the 2009 Coach of the Year award, officially handed out before the College World Series. Due to family conflicts, O'Connor was not in attendance.
The night also featured the recognition of the 2009 class into the College Baseball Hall of Fame, with the induction ceremony to follow Saturday. This year's class includes Major League greats such as Joe Carter, Barry Larkin, Larry Walker and Rafael Palmeiro to name a few.
Larkin brought the recognition of the past collegiate players full circle with the night's festivities admitting that he was glad he had retired, saying he wanted no part of Strasburg's famed 103 mph fastball.
Providing an undertone to the festivities was the reality that it marked Strasburg's last official collegiate appearance before he undertakes his professional career. Strasburg and the Nationals are continuing to negotiate and would need to come to an agreement on a signing bonus by Aug. 17.Strasburg, who has focused his entire season on living in the moment, was determined to savor the night.
"You never know," he said. "There's always another day. Anything can happen. You've just got to take every new day as a blessing and go from there. It's been a great experience but at the same time I'm sure I'm going to have a lot of fun for many years to come playing baseball."
Bailey Stephens is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.