MLB: Todd Frazier, Phil Niekro and Manny Acta Honored by MLBPAA

As we learn the winners of the prestigious MLB awards voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America each evening this week, some of the most important awards in regards to the growth of the sport were handed out last night with little media attention.

When you think of awards in Major League Baseball, you automatically think about the Most Valuable Player Award, the Cy Young Award, the Rookie of the Year Award and other well known prestigious honors that are awarded to the best performers from the latest season in baseball.

Those awards are voted on by the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, and revealed in a glorified week-long event, with each award receiving an hour-long reveal show on Major League Baseball’s television home MLB Network.

While that’s fun, and probably a little too drawn-out for most people’s liking, there are other awards being doled out to players across the game of baseball that receive little to no media attention at all. Which is puzzling to me, because these awards honor players who do the most for the growth of the game of baseball in America, and around the world.

The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) awards players on their efforts in helping the growth of the game of baseball, rather than solely on their statistics each year. This year the MLBPAA awarded Chicago White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier with the MLBPAA Heart and Hustle Award, described as the award for the player in MLB who best exemplifies the qualities that youth baseball players should strive for.

Frazier, who was acquired by the White Sox last winter in a three-team trade, posted career highs in home runs (40) and RBI (98) in 2016. More importantly, Frazier became an instant fan favorite on the south side because of his love for the game of baseball, and the way he carries himself as a ballplayer. He was loved just as much in Cincinnati before Chicago for the same reasons.

During his acceptance speech last night at the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association’s 17th Legends for Youth Dinner, Frazier had this to say about the award:

“When we talk about heart and hustle and passion in this game, I go out every day and try to be the best I can be, show the fans how to play the game of baseball, honestly go out there and play hard,” Frazier said. “This is an award that I can basically tell my kids, when I get older, is something that is humbling, something that you work hard at every day. Whatever job you have to do, whether it’s baseball or whatever job you do, give it 100 percent. Show the world what you’ve got and just enjoy every second of the day. … You don’t need to be an athlete to have heart and hustle.”

Outside of his being a slugging third baseman with an excellent glove at the hot corner, Frazier is heavily involved in youth baseball and the development of the next generation of baseball players. Todd and his two older brothers Charlie and Jeff Frazier own Frazier Baseball and Frazier’s Downtown Academy located in Toms River, New Jersey, the slugger’s hometown. The Fraziers have 12 teams lined up for the 2017 season with players ranging in age from eight years old all the way through 18 years old.

The Frazier brothers also hold year-round camps, youth clinics and prospect showcases for high school players looking to earn a college scholarship. Todd and his brothers do wonders for the youth baseball movement, and Todd is a true role model for young aspiring athletes in the way that he handles himself as a professional baseball player.

Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro received the Lifetime Achievement Award last night from the MLBPAA. Niekro signed with the Braves for $500 once upon a time, and that was probably the biggest steal since the Yankees traded for Babe Ruth considering the career Niekro put together. Niekro threw 245 complete games and struck out 3,342 opposing hitters during his career, winning 318 games over the course of 24 seasons. Niekro was a five-time All-Star selection during his career.

Manny Acta, the Seattle Mariners’ third base coach, also received the Brooks Robinson Community Service Award last night in New York.

“The word of the night is ‘humbling,'” said Acta, who became emotional during his speech as he spoke about his parents. “We don’t work to get awards, and we don’t need a pat on the back. This is unfair. I don’t think I should be getting an award for something I’m supposed to do, because that’s the way I look at it. I don’t think helping our community should be optional. It should be a responsibility.”

In addition to awarding the most character-driven honors in Major League Baseball, the ceremony and dinner is the MLBPAA’s primary fundraiser for the series of free Legends for Youth Baseball Clinics. More than 15,000 kids per year get to interact and learn from the best players to ever play the sport of baseball as a result of these clinics.

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