June 14, 2014
OMAHA -- Robin Ventura, Jason Varitek, Todd Helton, J.D. Drew, Mark Teixeira, Buster Posey and Stephen Strasburg are among the previous winners of the prestigious Dick Howser Trophy. Now Kentucky two-way star AJ Reed can add his name to a list of the best players in college baseball history.
After posting one of the most historic seasons in the history of the sport in 2014, Reed has been named the winner of the 2014 Dick Howser Trophy, presented by Easton Foundations and announced by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers during a presentation at the College World Series, on Saturday morning at TD Ameritrade Park.
“First off, just would like to thank the coaches and staff at Kentucky, and my mom and my family to give me the opportunity to play baseball growing up, the coaches to give me the opportunity to play at Kentucky and in the SEC,” Reed said in an opening statement at the award presentation. “I couldn’t have done it without anybody at UK, the coaches, the staff, and my teammates especially. They are the ones that push me and the coaches pushed me to get better every day. Without all of them, none of this could’ve been done. I’d also like to say thank you to the committee and everybody who voted for acknowledging the season. Without them, this couldn’t have been done.”
A 6-foot-4, 240-pounder, Reed was presented the Howser Trophy in a press conference at the TD Ameritrade media room on Saturday morning. Reed has now been named the Baseball America College Player of the Year, the Dick Howser Trophy winner and the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Player of the Year, also earning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year honors. He has also been named a first-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball, the NCBWA and Baseball America.
“I’ll give you a little bit of an idea of who AJ is,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “The numbers, everyone is aware of the numbers, they are spectacular. AJ is a guy that is at the center of your club. He has a good time every day he is at the field. He likes to laugh, he has a good sense of humor. He can poke fun at himself. He is fun to be around, consistently, even when it didn’t go well and he had a rough weekend, you knew that AJ was going to show up and bring energy and a smile. Those are all things that we look forward to on a daily basis with AJ Let me take a step back and thank Debbie (AJ’s mom).”
A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed finished his junior season as the NCAA leader in homers (23), slugging (.735) and OPS (1.211). He became the first player in SEC history to lead the league in homers and pitching wins (12), while also ranking as the conference leader in RBI (73), on-base percentage (.476), walks (49) and total bases (164). He finished the year with a .336 average with 18 doubles, one triple, a 12-2 record and a 2.09 ERA. Reed worked 112 innings, allowing just 29 walks and striking out 71.
Reed was a 24th round pick as a pitching out of high school by the New York Mets and elected to postpone his professional career. His decision paid off as Reed will go down as one of the most decorated performers in the history of college baseball.
“One of the things you know in this profession is that in a certain point in time, when kids are drafted out of high school that family has to take a leap of faith with you as a coach, they have to buy in to your program and they have to turn down a bunch of money,” Henderson said about the decision for Reed to come to Kentucky. “It makes you feel good when it comes to fruition that things are better down the road, the way that you painted that picture and how you told them it was going to be. It was the common sense move but at a certain point they have to have faith and Debbie did. We appreciate it, I appreciate it Debbie. AJ appreciates his mom, a lot. She was the driving force behind him until he got to Kentucky. She will continue to be a big part of his life.”
In his three-year career, Reed finished with a 19-13 record and a 2.83 ERA in 46 games and 248 innings, walking just 53 and striking out 174. He played in 172 games with 168 starts, batting .306 in his career, with 35 doubles, three triples, 40 homers and 168 RBI.
Reed was the first pick of the second round in the 2014 MLB Draft, going No. 42 overall to the Houston Astros, as a first baseman. Reed signed his first professional contract on Wednesday in Houston and will be assigned to the New York-Penn League Astros affiliate, the Tri-Valley RiverCats.
“AJ is the type of guy that five or 10 years from now and that phone rings and it is one of our team managers. AJ is the type of guy that is going to call that kid back,” Henderson said. “He is going to be the same guy, five years from now, 10 years from now. He is going to do something silly on TV and I am going to call him and we are going to get it squared away. That is the type of guy that AJ is. He is never going to be too big for anybody. He has just been a wonderful kid to coach.
“The thing that nobody mentions is AJ’s record, as a sophomore Friday night in our league, it is really a huge part of who he is and what he has done. He was 2-8 last year. That really speaks to AJ, a lot, because he is a guy that after going through that made some decisions and made some changes. He decided he wanted to be better than good.
“The skill piece has always been in play. The heart rate never gets above 60, not matter what the situation. (He is) A tremendous competitor, very intelligent, a good student, he is going to graduate with a degree from the University of Kentucky soon. But it is like anybody that is 20 years old there were things in the game that need to get better and decisions that need to be make if you are going to be great and really reach your potential. AJ made all those decisions and made all those changes. That is going to be the enduring image for AJ, is that he is going to do the things that he needs to do to be great. A lot of respect for AJ I really enjoyed him. We are going to miss him. Appreciate everyone on the committee for recognizing AJ and what he did. And one last time, thank you Debbie.”
The Dick Howser Trophy, given in memory of the former Florida State University All-America shortstop and Major League player and manager, who died of brain cancer in 1987, has been presented for the last 28 years. Criteria for consideration for the trophy include performance on the field, leadership, moral character, and courage, qualities which were exemplified by Dick Howser's life.
“It is of utmost importance for the Dick Howser Trophy Committee to identify the top college baseball player in the country not only based on ability,” David Feaster, the committee’s executive director, said. “However – equally important if not more, are the qualities that make up the spirit of the Trophy’s namesake, Dick Howser – leadership, character and courage.
“AJ Reed embodies all of the qualities that we identify when selecting the award winner. His numbers both as a hitter and pitcher were at the top of one of the nation’s finest leagues, the Southeastern Conference. His numbers speak for the outstanding season he had – and he did it with excellent sportsmanship and class.”