Turner, Bryant honored at All-Star FanFest
Catcher, third baseman receive Johnny Bench, Dick Howser awards respectively
NEW YORK -- Stuart Turner brought up an interesting point when he said catchers are typically thrust into the spotlight more when they do something wrong than when they do something right.
It's not that they're getting picked on. It's just that normally, we don't really pay much attention to catchers when they're simply doing their jobs -- catching pitches from behind the plate, blocking balls in the dirt, throwing out runners attempting to swipe second base.
So Turner felt like he was in a little bit of an unusual spot on Monday at FanFest, when he was asked to speak about everything that he's done right lately, which in turn helped him earn a prestigious honor.
Turner, selected by the Minnesota Twins in the third round of last month's First-Year Player Draft, recently received the Johnny Bench Award as the nation's top collegiate catcher. He was presented the award during a one-hour show on MLB.com, aired live from the 2013 All-Star FanFest at the Javits Convention Center in New York.
"You always trying to be the best at what you do," Turner said. "You always hear that good catchers don't get recognized. If you talk about a catcher, it's because he can't throw or something like that. Usually you notice the catcher who chases balls to the backstop."
But on Monday, Turner was noticed for all the right reasons. During his final season at the University of Mississippi, he threw out 51 percent of attempted basestealers and provided a steady hand behind the plate that contributed to the pitching staff's 3.07 ERA.
The Johnny Bench Award was created in 2000 and is administered by the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission and presented after the conclusion of the College World Series.
Bench, who is considered to be the best defensive catcher in baseball history, needed a little prodding when he was approached to lend his name to the award, but he has since embraced the process beyond what was initially asked of him.
"He grumbled, 'Do I have to come to Wichita?'" recalled Sports Commission president Bob Hanson. "I said, 'Only once.' He comes every year, and the last time, he stayed five days."
Twelve past winners have appeared on All-Star rosters, including two on this year's teams: San Francisco's Buster Posey and Houston's Jason Castro.
The other award that was presented during FanFest was the Dick Howser Award, which goes to the top Division I player in the nation. This year's winner was Kris Bryant, the University of San Diego standout who was selected second overall in the Draft by the Chicago Cubs.
Bryant batted .329 his junior season in 2013, hitting an NCAA-best 31 homers while driving in 62. He is currently working out at the club's facility in Mesa, Ariz., before heading out to join the Cubs' Class A affiliate in Boise, Idaho, so Hall of Famer and former Cub Andre Dawson represented Bryant during the FanFest presentation on Monday.
"He's a phenomenal athlete," Dawson said. "He's a big kid in stature, and he's still growing. He's going to do really well, and he's going to find out how overwhelming playing in Chicago and Wrigley Field can be."
Asked if he had any advice for Bryant, Dawson kept it simple: "He's going to have to show signs of development. You've just got to be dedicated, determined and hungry."
Jana Howser was on hand to congratulate the winners, and she spoke glowingly of the award's namesake -- her dad, Dick, who played for the Kansas City Athletics and managed the Yankees and Royals, winning a World Series with Kansas City in 1985. Two years later, Howser died from a brain tumor at the age of 51.
"He loved every day of what he did," Jana Howser said. "He started his career as a rookie with the Kansas City Athletics and went all those years, and came back to Kansas City and won a World Series. He never took anything for granted. He was a walk-on, unrecruited high school player [at Florida State]. He had one opportunity. That speaks to the way he walked through the days of his life. For him, it was always about baseball."
An award in his name all but guarantees that legacy will continue.
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.