CLEVELAND -- It was surprise enough when member of the Cleveland Baseball Federation RBI Softball team got to share the stage with Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis of the Indians. What they did not know was that more than a dozen other players would soon be joining them.During the 16th
CLEVELAND -- It was surprise enough when member of the Cleveland Baseball Federation RBI Softball team got to share the stage with Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis of the Indians. What they did not know was that more than a dozen other players would soon be joining them.
During the 16th annual Greater Cleveland Sports Awards banquet on Thursday night, the Indians caught the 2015 Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities' Softball World Series champions off guard during their award presentation. Brantley, Kipnis and the majority of the Tribe's big league roster gathered around the young women and presented them with the Amateur Athlete of the Year accolade.
"I think it's great. I think it's really important," Brantley said of the turnout by Indians players. "We were all in here in town and we all wanted to do it, and I think that's what's most important. We had fun doing it. It was a great time, and it was for a great thing and a great accomplishment."
Brantley was also nominated for the Pro Athlete of the Year Award, along with LeBron James of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers and Gary Barnidge of the NFL's Cleveland Browns. James took home the honor for his part in leading the Cavs to the NBA Finals last year.
Roughly 20 players are in Cleveland this week in preparation for Tribe Fest, which takes place from 9:15 a.m.-7 p.m. ET on Saturday at the Aloft Hotel in downtown Cleveland. Brantley, Kipnis, Corey Kluber, Cody Allen, Francisco Lindor, Rajai Davis, Mike Napoli, Lonnie Chisenhall and Danny Salazar, among others, were on hand for Thursday's awards ceremony.
As the RBI champions gave their acceptance speech, a long line of Tribe players walked through the banquet hall and took the stage. At the end of the presentation, the players surrounded the softball players and Lindor took a group photo.
The Cleveland softball team went 7-0 in the 2015 World Series tournament, becoming the first team from Cleveland to win the RBI World Series in any division of the youth sports program.
After the on-stage portion of the banquet, the players took more photos with the winners.
Brantley, who is currently recovering from November surgery on his right shoulder, hit .310 with 15 home runs, 45 doubles and 84 RBIs in 137 games last season. The outfielder ended the season with more walks (60) than strikeouts (51) and scored 68 runs. It was a solid encore to 2014, when Brantley was named an All-Star, received a Silver Slugger Award and ended third in American League Most Valuable Player Award voting.
Brantley said it was an honor to be considered for the Pro Athlete of the Year Award, which Kluber won last season.
"It's a great [nomination], along with all the players," Brantley said. "You work very hard in the offseason, you prepare each and every day, and you just play your best. And to be recognized for it, it's a blessing, and it doesn't go unnoticed."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.