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MLB alumni unveil award nominees

MLB alumni unveil award nominees

PITTSBURGH -- The former players who make up the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association were out in full force early Monday morning in support of their own award, which each year honors a current player who not only excels on the field, but also "best embodies the values, spirit and tradition of the game."

The occasion was this week's pre-All-Star Game festivities. The place was the cute little practice diamond in the middle of the John Hancock All-Star FanFest, staged downtown just blocks from PNC Park at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

A little older and quite a bit wiser now, the group presenting this season's 30 nominees for the "Heart & Hustle" Award included such baseball luminaries as Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins, Tommy John, Andre "The Hawk" Dawson, Rich "Goose" Gossage, Steve Rogers, Ron LeFlore and MLB Radio's Brian McCrae and Jim Leyritz.

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"This is very important to us," said Gossage, the former closer who barely missed being elected into the Hall of Fame this year when his bullpen contemporary, Bruce Sutter, was voted in. "We try to give back to the community. This award, along with our golf tournaments and clinics around the country, promote the goodwill of baseball. We have so much to offer and give back to the game of baseball."

Committees made up of former players who played for each of the 30 teams selected a nominee from each club for the award, which was unveiled in 2005. David Eckstein of the St. Louis Cardinals was the inaugural winner.

John, the former starting pitcher, presented the American League nominees: Ramon Hernandez of the Baltimore Orioles, Jason Varitek of the Boston Red Sox, Jim Thome of the Chicago White Sox, Grady Sizemore of the Cleveland Indians, Carlos Guillen of the Detroit Tigers, Doug Mientkiewicz of the Kansas City Royals, Darin Erstad of the Los Angeles Angels, Torii Hunter of the Minnesota Twins, Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees, Jason Kendall of the Oakland Athletics, Raul Ibanez of the Seattle Mariners, Toby Hall of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Michael Young of the Texas Rangers and Vernon Wells of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Jenkins, the starter who starred for the Chicago Cubs, among other teams, announced the National League nominees: Craig Counsell of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Marcus Giles of the Atlanta Braves, Derrek Lee of the Chicago Cubs, Adam Dunn of the Cincinnati Reds, Jamey Carroll of the Colorado Rockies, Dontrelle Willis of the Florida Marlins, Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros, Eric Gagne of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Brady Clark of the Milwaukee Brewers, Paul Lo Duca of the New York Mets, Aaron Rowand of the Philadelphia Phillies, Jason Bay of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Trevor Hoffman of the San Diego Padres, Steve Finley of the San Francisco Giants, Eckstein of the Cardinals and Alfonso Soriano of the Washington Nationals.

"They went 30-for-30, these committees," said Joe Garagiola, the MLB vice president and former Diamondbacks general manager who attended the press conference. "They're all good players -- a lot of World Series rings on that list. Probably a couple of [future] Hall of Famers on there. But they're all baseball players who respect the game and play it the right way. That's the list of guys who should be kids' favorite players."

Later this summer, some 3,200 of the 5,000 living former players who are members of the association will be sent a ballot and asked to select this year's winner among the 30 nominees. The award will be presented on Nov. 3 at the Alumni Association's annual "Legends for Youth" dinner in New York City.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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