Duffy captures Giants' Willie Mac Award
Rookie third baseman earns team's most inspirational honor
SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants third baseman Matt Duffy became the first rookie to be named winner of the Willie Mac Award, which he received in a pregame ceremony Friday.
Duffy, whose calm exterior belies his intensity, captured the team's most prestigious honor in balloting among teammates, manager Bruce Bochy and his coaching staff, the athletic training staff, fans and McCovey himself. The award is given annually to the most inspirational Giant who also conveys the dignified character of McCovey, the Hall of Fame first baseman who slugged 521 home runs during a career that ended in 1980.
"I couldn't be more honored," Duffy said in brief remarks after being named the 2015 award winner. He thanked essentially everybody he could think of, including his coaches ("They taught me if you put in the time, good things will come") and fans ("The energy you bring to the park is unbelievable").
After the Giants' 9-3 loss to Colorado, Duffy was asked how he motivates teammates. He replied, "I'm going to turn it around and credit the veterans. They've made my transition to this team so much easier. ... They've been so welcoming to me."
In a tender moment caught on television, Duffy shared a warm embrace with his father, Tom, after the ceremony.
"That was awesome," Matt Duffy said. "He's been the No. 1 reason I am where I'm at." Tom Duffy worked extensively with a teenaged Matt on baseball fundamentals.
The award is held in high regard that multiple Willie Mac winners return every year to San Francisco to help celebrate the latest recipient. Friday, Jack Clark, the inaugural Willie Mac winner in 1980, headed a contingent of 13 previous winners to participate in the AT&T Park festivities.
Current Giants players and coaches who won the award also joined the ceremony. That group consisted of Shawon Dunston, Mark Gardner, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Madison Bumgarner.
McCovey, who was too ill last year to attend the ceremony honoring Bumgarner, was present this time to introduce Duffy as the winner. McCovey also saluted this year's injury-wracked Giants club for remaining in contention in the National League West race until the season's final week and endorsed Bochy for the Manager of the Year Award.
Duffy, 24, entered Friday leading the NL in hits (89) since the All-Star break. His 46 extra-base hits were the most by a Giants rookie since Chili Davis had 52 in 1982. He ranks among the NL rookie leaders in hits, batting average, RBIs, runs, total bases, on-base percentage and sligging percentage.
Duffy wasn't even a lock to make the Opening Night roster when Spring Training began. But he earned a utility man's role and took over at third base in mid-May after Casey McGehee, obtained in an offseason trade from Miami, was let go after a colossal batting slump.
Duffy, who spent the final two months of 2014 in the Majors, quickly adapted to his new position despite playing only three games at third as a Minor Leaguer.