Thursday, October 26, 2006

Jeter Takes Home Hank Aaron Award

The Hank Aaron Award is named after baseball's all-time home run king, but this year's American League recipient took a different approach during his spectacular season. Derek Jeter may have only hit 14 home runs, but the rest of his numbers helped him become the first Yankees player to capture the annual honor that goes to the outstanding offensive performer in each league.
Jeter ranked second in the American League with a .343 batting average and 118 runs scored, fourth with a .417 on-base percentage and sixth with 34 stolen bases. Jeter also drove in 97 runs out of the No. 2 spot in New York's lineup.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jeter became just the fifth player in the past 75 seasons to hit .340 or higher, drive in at least 90 runs and steal 30 or more bases in the same season. The others were Larry Walker (1997), Ellis Burks (1996), Willie Mays (1958) and Jackie Robinson (1949).
"It's nice any time you can have your name mentioned with Hank Aaron," Jeter said earlier this season, when he was informed he was a nominee.
More than 250,000 votes were cast on during the final phase of voting. Jeter received 29,275 votes, or 37 percent of the votes among the six American League finalists. Jeter, who beat out Vladimir Guerrero, Travis Hafner, David Ortiz, Justin Morneau and Paul Konerko, also is one of the leading candidates for the AL Most Valuable Player Award, which will be announced on Nov. 21. The Phillies' Ryan Howard is the National League winner of the Aaron Award.
"Derek Jeter, to me, has demonstrated that he is not only a man that the Yankees can depend on winning a championship year in and year out, but he has carried this a little bit further because he has done so many great things off the field," Aaron said at Wednesday's award announcement at Busch Stadium in St. Louis prior to Game 4 of the World Series.
"I think this award means much more than just presenting an award to two great players. I think that you, more than anybody, have realized that what you do on the field means little of nothing to what you do off the field. And you have carried yourself that way."
Commissioner Bud Selig was equal in his praise of Jeter.
"I haven't had the privilege to know Ryan as well as I've known Derek, but what Hank said I'm sure is true about Ryan -- Derek Jeter is the kind of player, frankly, that makes you proud to be the commissioner of baseball. Congratulations," Selig said.
In accepting his award, Jeter thanked CENTURY 21 for its support, then he recalled his first meeting with Aaron.
"In '99 we had the All-Star Game in Boston, that was the first time I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Aaron," Jeter said, "and the thing that stuck out with me, he tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'I was looking for you.'
"What he stands for, like the commissioner said, not only on the field but away from the field, how he carries himself, he's second to none. This award, I thank everyone that voted for me. I sort of feel out of place. With Hank Aaron, the first thing that comes to mind is home runs. Ryan Howard the same thing. So when people said what award I was going to win, I stuck my chest out, and I said, 'You know, the Hank Aaron Award. What do you think?'
"Thank you very much. It's an honor and privilege for me to be here, and I really appreciate it."
Since 1999, the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, Major League Baseball has recognized the best offensive performer from each league with the Hank Aaron Award presented by Century 21.
Past recipients include Barry Bonds (three times), Alex Rodriguez (three times), Manny Ramirez (twice), Albert Pujols, Todd Helton, Sammy Sosa and Carlos Delgado. Last year's winners, selected via balloting during the regular season's final month on, were Boston's Ortiz and Atlanta's Andruw Jones.

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