USA Baseball Announces Five Finalists for 2009 Golden Spikes Award

FROM USA BASEBALL RELEASE
gs_logo_hires(DURHAM, N.C.) – USA Baseball announced Tuesday the names of the five finalists for the 2009 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award (GSA). This year will mark the 32nd consecutive year that the Golden Spikes Award has been presented to the nation’s premier amateur baseball player.

Dustin Ackley, 1B, North Carolina; Mike Leake, RHP, Arizona State; Kent Matthes, OF, Alabama; A.J. Morris, RHP, Kansas State; and Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State round out the five finalists.

Fans can continue to stay up to date on the award by visiting GoldenSpikesAward.com, powered by MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), the interactive media and Internet company of Major League Baseball (MLB). The new Web site features content devoted exclusively to the GSA, including news, voting history, past-winner photo galleries, and photographs and video highlights for 2009 finalists.

The 2009 GSA will be awarded live on July 14 at All-Star FanFest in St. Louis as part of a production by MLB and MLBAM. Immediately following the presentation, footage will be streamed on the Internet exclusively at GoldenSpikesAward.com and MLB.com. This year marks the first time that the award will be presented live at All-Star FanFest.

“As is the case each year, the voting committee was faced with a difficult task in narrowing the list of Golden Spikes Award candidates from 30 players to five,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler. “Dustin Ackley, Mike Leake, Kent Matthes, A.J. Morris, and Stephen Strasburg have each had an exceptional year, and they are more than deserving finalists.”

In 2009 Dustin Ackley received first-team Louisville Slugger All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball, becoming the first three-time All-America selection in Tar Heel baseball history. The 2009 ACC Player of the Year, Ackley leads the conference in hits (101), home runs (21), and batting (.417). Ackley is a three-time all-conference pick, and the junior first baseman also recently set the North Carolina career hits mark with 329. Ackley is the first GSA finalist out of North Carolina since Andrew Miller in 2006.

Mike Leake was named Pac-10 Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2009, the second year in a row the Arizona State righty received the award. He was also a first-team all-conference selection. Leake leads the Pac-10 in wins (15), ERA (1.23), strikeouts (143) and innings pitched (124.2), and his win and ERA totals also lead the nation as well. The junior was named the Academic All-American of the Year, and he was recently selected as one of five finalists for the national Pitcher of the Year Award. Leake is another in a long line of Sun Devil players who have been named a GSA finalist, with Brett Wallace being the most recent in 2008.

Kent Matthes is coming off a season in which he set an Alabama record for most home runs in a season (28). The senior was named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and was a first-team all-conference selection. Matthes finished the year batting .358 with 67 runs scored and 81 RBI, with more than half of his hits going for extra bases. He is the first Crimson Tide player to be voted a Golden Spikes Award finalist since Roberto Vaz in 1997.

Kansas State junior pitcher A.J. Morris was named the 2009 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, going 14-1 with a 2.09 ERA and a school-record 100 strikeouts. He was one of six starting pitchers named a 2009 Louisville Slugger first-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball, becoming the first Wildcat since Craig Wilson in 1992 to earn first team All-American status. Morris also holds the school record for single-season wins, and he finished tied for third in the history of the Big 12 Conference in that department. Morris is the first GSA finalist in Kansas State history.

San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg was selected as the National Player of the Year and a Louisville Slugger first-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball. Strasburg is currently the national leader in strikeouts (195), and the two-time Mountain West Conference (MWC) Pitcher of the Year finished league play with a conference-best 7-0 record (13-1 overall), an ERA of 1.50 (1.32 overall) and 111 strikeouts. Strasburg is the first Aztec to be named a GSA finalist since eventual winner Travis Lee in 1996.

In 2007, USA Baseball instituted a new selection and balloting procedure for the most prestigious award in amateur baseball, and it is following the same model again in 2009. After accepting nominations from sports information directors across the country, a committee voted to determine 30 semifinalists. The names of the 30 semifinalists were forwarded to a voting body of 125 who selected the five finalists, and the committee will now determine the eventual 2009 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award winner.

About the Golden Spikes Award

Since 1978, USA Baseball has honored the top amateur baseball player in the country with the Golden Spikes Award. Following the first ever presentation of the Award to Bob Horner of Arizona State, the Golden Spikes Award has been presented each year to the player who exhibits exceptional athletic ability and exemplary sportsmanship. The 2008 Golden Spikes Award winner was Buster Posey of Florida State. Past winners of this prestigious award include current Major League Baseball players such as David Price (’07), Tim Lincecum (’06), Alex Gordon (’05), Jered Weaver (’04), Rickie Weeks (’03), Khalil Greene (’02), Jason Jennings (’00), Pat Burrell (‘98), J.D. Drew (’97), Mark Kotsay (’95), and Jason Varitek (’94). Former Major League stars that have captured the award include Robin Ventura (’88), Jim Abbott (’87), Will Clark (’85), Dave Magadan (’83), Terry Francona (’80), Tim Wallach (’79), and Bob Horner (’78).

About USA Baseball

USA Baseball is the National Governing Body of amateur baseball in the United States and is a member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). The organization selects and trains the United States Olympic Baseball Team (and all other USA Baseball Professional Teams); the USA Baseball National Team (Collegiate); the USA Baseball 18U, 16U and 14U National Teams; and the USA Baseball Women’s National Team, all of which participate in various international competitions each year. USA Baseball also presents the Golden Spikes Award annually to top player in college baseball. For more information, please visit www.usabaseball.com and www.goldenspikesaward.com. To receive monthly USA Baseball E-mail newsletters delivered straight to your inbox, please visit www.usabaseball.com and register for free in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage.