Top college talent takes in All-Star atmosphere
Set to be recognized at FanFest, baseball's future prospects visit Citi Field
NEW YORK -- Prospects Stuart Turner and Marco Gonzales saw the future on Sunday morning at Citi Field, and they liked what was staring back at them.
Jana Howser stepped on the field a few hours later before the start of the 2013 Futures Game, reminisced about the past, shared her thoughts about the state of college baseball, and like the two prospects before her, thought about the days ahead and all of the good that is still to come in the game she loves.
"I believe that college baseball is the best it has ever been," she said. "It's a wonderful time for the sport of baseball. It's an incredible time for college baseball."
On Monday, Turner, Gonzales, Howser and members of the National College Baseball Hall of Fame will take center stage at FanFest for College Baseball Awards. Along with Turner, who will be recognized as the winner of the Johnny Bench Award for the best catcher in the country, Gonzales will also be honored as the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award winner.
"This award means my coaches and teammates had faith in me to keep me on the field, even when I'm not pitching," Gonzales said. "It's a tribute to my passion to the game, and I'm grateful to get the opportunity."
Other award winners who will be recognized but will not be in attendance are: Jonathan Gray, the third overall pick by the Rockies in this year's Draft out of Oklahoma, as National Pitcher of the Year; Alex Bregman, the current shortstop for LSU, as the Brooks Wallace Award winner for the nation's best shortstop; Gloucester County coach Skip Bertman as the National Coach of the Year; and Kris Bryant, the No. 2 pick overall by the Cubs out of the University of San Diego, as the winner of the Dick Howser Trophy for college baseball's top player.
"The Howser Trophy is in its 27th year in existences and recognizes a player not only for baseball but also great character," said Howser, who will present the Howser Award, which is named after her father, the late Dick Howser. "Character is important. The person who wins the award cares about the world and the people around him and who they come into contact with or they touch."
Turner, who starred at University of Mississippi, was selected by the Twins in the third round. Gonzales, who played collegiately at Gonzaga, was the Cardinals' first-round pick, No. 19 overall.
On Sunday, Turner and Gonzales toured Citi Field and met a group of famous baseball figures that included Frank Robinson, Nomar Garciaparra, and Edgardo Alfonzo, who managed the World Team.
The pair also watched the game from a suite. But perhaps the sweetest part of the day was watching batting practice and the game itself.
"[The Futures Game] is something I will keep in the back of my mind to strive for," Turner said. "I see them as goals, like stepping stones, along the way with the ultimate goal of playing MLB. To come here and see a different side of it is neat. I have high standards of myself and set high and attainable goals. I try day by day to accomplish them."
Said Gonzales, "To be able to experience all this and take it in is very special. This is pretty inspiring to me. You see that hard works pays off. You see everyone enjoying it and hopefully, I can be a part of it one day."
Monday might be an even better day.
"We are all excited about the awards," Mike Gustafson, executive director of National College Baseball Hall of Fame. "The formal announcement took place in Lubbock in June and Howser Trophy is analogous to the Heisman trophy. It's award season and soon we will be looking to next year."
It's already been a great trip for Howser.
"I remember so vividly my father being the third-base coach and then managing the New York Yankees, and this time of the year is filled with all kinds of wonderful memories, because my father was in baseball in different capacities," she said. "He really embodied the spirit of great achievement and enjoying what we do, whatever it is we choose to do. Being in New York feels wonderful, it really does."