MLBPAA recognizes Kendrick, La Russa, Damon

November 8th, 2019

NEW YORK -- It’s been quite a stretch for postseason hero . A week after helping to lift the Nats to the franchise’s first World Series title -- and D.C.’s first since 1924 -- Kendrick was honored with the Heart & Hustle Award at the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association’s 20th Annual Legends for Youth dinner.

“Being chosen as a Heart & Hustle winner out of all the finalists, there were a lot of great guys this year, but I’m truly humbled they chose me,” Kendrick said in a recorded speech. “It’s truly an honor to be like [past winners]. They set the table. They laid the foundation, and I get an opportunity to represent something I’ve modeled my career after.”

The Heart & Hustle Award is voted on by Alumni and active Major League players, and it is presented annually to an active player who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game. One player from each team was chosen, then fans, alumni and active players voted on an overall winner from that pool.

Not only did Kendrick hit the decisive homer in Game 7 of the World Series on Oct. 30, but he also became the first player in MLB history to hit multiple home runs in the seventh inning or later in winner-take-all games in a postseason. His grand slam in the top of the 10th inning in Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Dodgers on Oct. 9 sparked the Nationals to the franchise’s first postseason series victory.

The two historic and unforgettable highlights added to what had already been an outstanding 2019 season for the 36-year-old Kendrick, who hit a career-best .344 with 17 homers and 62 RBIs. He has 1,722 career hits over a distinguished 14-year career.

Kendrick wasn’t the only person honored at the packed dinner. Hall of Famer Tony La Russa was recognized with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award. A three-time World Series winner as a manager, La Russa's 2,728 career wins trail just Connie Mack and John McGraw for most in MLB history. La Russa has dedicated countless hours to his Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF), where animals without a home can be kept and matched with potential owners, including military vets. The ARF has saved more than 42,000 cats and dogs.

“You are only as good as what you do to give back,” La Russa said. “My wife and I take that seriously.” In addition to La Russa, Hall of Famers Joe Torre (who introduced La Russa), Harold Baines, Andre Dawson and Lee Smith were among the baseball legends who attended the event.

Two-time World Series champion and two-time All-Star Johnny Damon received the Association’s Brooks Robinson Community Service Award. Damon has been active with various charities both during his playing career and in retirement, and he said he always made a point -- even leading teammates -- to visit the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center when on the road in Baltimore.

“I always feel like you can give more to help out the people who can’t help themselves and to help out charities that are near and dear to my heart,” Damon said. “Sometimes you can’t recognize guys when they first come to Walter Reed, and then you see them five, 10 years later and you have a conversation with them, and they’re like, ‘I remember.’ And I think that’s the coolest thing ever.”