SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The eighth annual Arizona Fall League Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award will be given out in an on-field ceremony at the championship game on Saturday. On Tuesday, the six finalists were announced.
The manager and coaches from each team were asked to nominate one player. The AFL will select one winner from the six nominees, with the recipient receiving the award at Scottsdale Stadium prior to the 3 p.m. ET start to the championship game between the Surprise Saguaros and Salt River Rafters (live broadcast on MLB.com and MLB Network).
This year's finalists are Brodie Greene (Reds), Phoenix Desert Dogs; Kevin Mattison (Marlins), Surprise Saguaros; Zelous Wheeler (Brewers), Peoria Javelinas; Dan Butler (Red Sox), Scottsdale Scorpions; Chris Hermann (Twins), Mesa Solar Sox; Nolan Arenado (Rockies), Salt River Rafters.
Created in memory of the late Cincinnati Reds outfield prospect, who was killed during the 2003 Arizona Fall League season, the award has been given annually since '04 to the player who best exemplifies unselfishness, hard work and leadership. The six were chosen for those qualities -- which Stenson brought to the ballpark every day -- rather than their statistics or on-field performances. They all are, without exception, the types who have a hard-nosed attitude, players who do their jobs without complaint, who play the game the way it was meant to be played.
"It seems like a great honor," Mattison said. "I didn't know the award existed. I just go out there and give it my all every day and try to put our team in a good place to win. I just hustle all the time. I see guys who don't hustle, and I think it looks bad. It's just the way I play. I play hard every day."
Stenson Award Recipients
Position, AFL team
Steve Lombardozzi (Nationals)
IF, Scottsdale Scorpions
Russ Mitchell (Dodgers)
1B, Peoria Javelinas
Jason Donald (Phillies)
IF, Mesa Solar Sox
Sam Fuld (Cubs)
OF, Mesa Solar Sox
Kevin Frandsen (Giants)
IF, Scottsdale Scorpions
Andre Ethier (Athletics)
OF, Phoenix Desert Dogs
Mark Teahen (Royals)
3B, Phoenix Desert Dogs
"It's a great honor," Greene said. "Anytime you're in the mix for any type of award, it's a great accomplishment. I just attribute it to how I was raised to play the game, the way I was brought up through Little League, high school, college and now here, it's the same way. Be there early, after, whatever it takes, picking up guys when you're not playing. Playing the game the right way, how I was taught my whole life. It's paying off now.
"Everybody looks at the stats, but the other stuff behind the scenes that not everybody knows about, to be recognized about it is a great feeling."
While winning the Stenson Award isn't any guarantee for a long Major League career, the work ethic that is honored by the award clearly has helped past winners reach the ultimate goal, even for a brief time.
Since the award began in 2004, when Mark Teahen was the initial recipient, five of the seven Stenson winners have seen big league time the following season. All have received at least a little Major League service time, with '05 winner Andre Ethier being the most successful to date.
Regardless of whether any of this year's nominees go on to significant careers at the highest level, their effort in the AFL -- at a time when many players are worn out from a long year and ready to go home -- leaves a definite legacy.
"I've seen plenty of guys who take off at-bats, take off games, it hurts them in the long run," said Mattison, who has helped his team make it to the championship game. "I've seen guys' careers, they become shorter because of it. I can't do that, because they'd send me packing as a senior sign. That's just the way I play. I just try to do what I have to do to get on base and help our team win."
"Sometimes it's leading by example," Greene said. "Some guys pick up on it, and it can be contagious. I'm not going to change for anybody. I'll just play the way I've been playing and see where it takes me."