NEW YORK -- Before heading to Tampa for Spring Training, Yankees manager Aaron Boone, shortstop Didi Gregorius and third baseman Miguel Andújar were honored at the 39th annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner on Tuesday night. New York Giants center Zak DeOssie and former Mets first baseman Ed Kranepool were also
NEW YORK -- Before heading to Tampa for Spring Training, Yankees manager Aaron Boone, shortstop Didi Gregorius and third baseman Miguel Andújar were honored at the 39th annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner on Tuesday night. New York Giants center Zak DeOssie and former Mets first baseman Ed Kranepool were also honored at the event.
The Thurman Munson Award is given to professional and Olympic athletes in recognition of their athletic achievements and their contributions to the community. The event raised money to benefit the AHRC New York City Foundation and help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
"It's really neat for me," Boone said on receiving the award. "Growing up in this game, Thurman Munson, being the superstar that he was in the Bronx and helping the Yankees win championships, this is in my hot zone. [He is one of the players] I grew up idolizing, wanting to be like. To be here as a manager, accepting an award with his name on it, is pretty special to me."
Diane Munson, the widow of the former Yankees catcher, is amazed that the event is going strong after all these years. She remembered when the dinner was created in 1980, a year after her husband was killed in a plane crash. The event was supposed to last no more than a few years.
"It's going strong after 39 years," Munson said. "What an honor for Thurman. What a wonderful way to honor his legacy by doing so many good works. I toured some facilities and I saw the classrooms and the workshops. I see where the money goes. It's so touching and it means so much to our family. What a good way to honor Thurman and what a wonderful way to help all the individuals."
According to Diana Munson, if her husband were alive today, he would be amazed by the dinner's success over the years. The gala has raised more than $16 million.
"He would shake his head and say, 'Are you kidding me.' He would be totally amazed," she said. "He never realized how loved he was. That makes me a little sad. … I'm happy to be here and see how much he is loved and how much the fans remember him. New Yorkers do not forget. You give your all -- and he did -- the fans respect it and appreciate it."
Before the event got started, Boone was asked about the possibility of Bryce Harper signing with the Yankees as a free agent. Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge said recently he is willing to move to center field in order to make room for Harper. But Boone shot that possibility down. Boone believes the Yankees' outfield is already set with Judge, Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner. Giancarlo Stanton is also expected to see action in the outfield.
"I think that was Judgie having some fun at the Super Bowl," Boone said. "Judgie would do a lot of things for the team. … He was probably pressed in the corner at the Super Bowl and he gave a good answer. I don't think we have to worry about [Judge moving to center field]."
Asked whether he wanted Harper on the team, Boone said, "I want everybody. Obviously, he is a great player. Our team is pretty much set. Obviously, things happen. Of course, [general manager] Brian [Cashman] and his staff have pivoted on certain things. But I think it's safe to assume we are going to Spring Training with the team we expect to have."
Gregorius made it known that he will not be ready for Opening Day as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Before flying to Tampa, however, Gregorius was honored to be given the Munson Award. He is known for visiting children's hospitals and handing out umbrellas and beanies in the streets of New York.
"It's Thurman Munson's legacy, but I can't be compared to him," Gregorius said.
On the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Mets upsetting the Orioles in the World Series, Kranepool was awarded for his work off the field. He works with the Diabetes Association and promotes organ donation. Kranepool, who needs a kidney transplant, is searching for a donor.
"Any time you get honored in New York for things that you have done, it's nice. It's very nice," Kranepool said.
Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. He covered the Nationals/Expos from 2002-2016. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.