Big names, young stars tapped for good works away from game
On the diamond, they’ve collectively crushed more than 800 home runs. But off the field, their clout truly goes deep, boosting safer water, cancer research and more.
For their competitive fire and altruistic sweat, 10 Major League Baseball players — including sluggers Andrew McCutchen and Adrian Beltre — have been nominated for the Hutch Award, one of the game’s most respected humanitarian accolades.
The 51st award will be presented Jan. 27 at Safeco Field in Seattle, home city of big league pitcher and manager Fred Hutchinson and the cancer research center that bears his name. For the 2016 ceremony, former Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk will serve as the keynote speaker.
Each year, MLB teams are invited to nominate a player for the award. Past winners cast ballots to choose the next recipient.
“Former winners who vote … would most assuredly focus on a player's philanthropic activities as that is the real purpose of the award — someone with outstanding character and who makes a difference in their community,” said Sheri Ward, co-chair of the Hutch Award Luncheon Planning Committee.
The 2015 Hutch Award nominees are:
As a group, this year's nominees have amassed 14 All-Star Game appearances, one Most Valuable Player award (McCutchen), and nine Gold Glove awards.
“Our list of nominees is absolutely loaded with on-field talent and some are arguably at the top of the list of position players,” Ward said. “Adrian Beltre, Andrew McCutchen and Adam Wainwright all are superb players. George Springer is a young player who had a great year this year. There’s no question, all of the nominees are accomplished athletes.
“But the award is really more about what these guys do off the field and their overall character as opposed to their on-field prowess,” Ward said.
Case in point: Hosmer. This year, following the cancer death of a 7-year-old boy with whom Hosmer had developed a friendship, the player worked with Royals Charities to lead a three-day bandage drive at Kauffman Stadium, helping fulfill the boy’s dream to collect colorful, kid-friendly bandages to be donated to area hospitals and school nurse’s offices so kids had something fun to wear when needed. Hundreds of bandages were collected and $7,000 was raised to support childhood cancer research.
The Hutch Award is given to the MLB player who best exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire of Fred “Hutch” Hutchinson. After a career that included pitching for the Detroit Tigers and managing the Tigers, Cardinals and Reds, Hutchinson died of lung cancer at age 45 in 1964. Following his death, Seattle surgeon Bill Hutchinson founded Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as a living tribute to his brother.
One year after his passing, friends Bob Prince, a Pirates broadcaster, Jim Enright, a Chicago sportswriter, and Ritter Collett, sports editor of the Dayton Journal Herald, created the Hutch Award. They also established a scholarship fund for medical students engaged in cancer research to honor the ex-player and manager.
The first Hutch Award went to Mickey Mantle, a New York Yankees Hall of Famer. Last year, the winner was Royals left fielder Alex Gordon. Away from the game, Gordon supports Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), which grew from the front yard lemonade stand of cancer patient Alexandra "Alex" Scott and her work to raise money for kids with cancer. Alex died in 2004 at the age of 8. Since then, the foundation carrying her name has raised more than $80 million for the cause, including more than $1 million for cancer research at Fred Hutch.
Other Hutch Award recipients include baseball legends Sandy Koufax, Carl Yastrzemski and Willie McCovey. One of the most inspiring winners was Jon Lester, whose pitching helped Boston clinch the 2007 World Series — a little more than a year after he underwent treatment for anaplastic large cell lymphoma at Fred Hutch.
The Hutch Award Luncheon, over the past 16 years, has raised gross proceeds of more than $4.8 million to support lifesaving research at Fred Hutch.
Among the nominees, Wainwright has worked to provide sustainable, safe water for people in developing countries, and Morrison (with his wife, Christie) organized the 2015 Uncork for a Cause charity program to benefit Fred Hutch. Hoover spends time with wounded veterans. McCutchen created Cutch's Crew, a program that mentors at-risk kids in Pittsburgh and raises charity funds by teaming with events like a local marathon. Vogt (and his wife, Alyssa) partner with the School of Imagination in Northern California, which helps special-needs kids find acceptance for who they are while guiding them toward an eventual return to public school.
Additional information about the Hutch Award can be found here.
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Bill Briggs is a former Fred Hutch News Service staff writer. Follow him at @writerdude. Previously, he was a contributing writer for NBCNews.com and TODAY.com, covering breaking news, health and the military. Prior, he was a staff writer for The Denver Post, part of the newspaper's team that earned the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Columbine High School massacre. He has authored two books, including "The Third Miracle: an Ordinary Man, a medical Mystery, and a Trial of Faith."