After a brilliant, record-setting rookie season, Cody Bellinger now has the hardware to show for it. Not that there was ever much doubt.
The Dodgers' slugging first baseman took home the National League Rookie of the Year Award on Monday night, receiving all 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The Cardinals' Paul DeJong finished second, with Pittsburgh's Josh Bell coming in third.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR VOTING
Cody Bellinger, LAD
Paul DeJong, STL
Josh Bell, PIT
Rhys Hoskins, PHI
German Marquez, COL
Manuel Margot, SD
Kyle Freeland, COL
Luis Castillo, CIN
Ian Happ, CHC
"It's a huge honor," Bellinger said during MLB Network's unveiling of the award. "I have to give a lot of credit to Paul and Josh, too -- unbelievable players. To take this award home with me is really special."
Bellinger, who batted .267/.352/.581 with 39 homers, is the second consecutive Dodger to win the award, after Corey Seager did so last year. Bellinger is the third straight unanimous NL winner, after Kris Bryant received all 30 votes in 2015. It's the first time in the award's history that a league has seen three straight unanimous winners.
Bellinger is the latest in a long line of rookie stars for the Dodgers. The franchise has seen 18 players take home the honor, beginning with Jackie Robinson, who won the first edition in 1947. That's easily the most among all clubs.
In both leagues, the award is now named for Robinson. The Yankees' Aaron Judge captured the American League hardware Monday night. Both were unanimous selections, setting up a head-to-head duel for the sport's overall top rookie when the Esurance MLB Awards are announced.
"Watching him from the West Coast, what he did on the East Coast was awesome," Bellinger said of Judge. "I met him during the All-Star Game. He's a humble dude. Now that the season is over, I think we're both reflecting on the kinds of seasons that we had."
Like Judge, Bellinger set his league's rookie home run record this season. His 39 dingers were one more than the previous mark held by Frank Robinson (1956) and Wally Berger (1930).
Bellinger arrived on the scene in late April, with a number of Dodgers nursing injuries. It didn't take long for him to make an impact. He launched his first career homer on April 29 -- a two-homer game against Philadelphia. He put forth another two-homer tilt one week later in San Diego. In his first 50 career games, Bellinger went deep 19 times.
By July, Bellinger was an All-Star and a Home Run Derby participant. His father, Clay, a four-year big leaguer, pitched to Cody at the Derby in Miami, where Bellinger lost to Judge in the semifinals.
"I think that was the coolest moment for me all year," Bellinger said. "Growing up, my whole life, [he was] throwing me BP. To do it in front of millions watching in Miami was really special."
Bellinger's extended family joined him for the award unveiling on Monday night. He said the atmosphere was "like a little Super Bowl party -- except for Rookie of the Year." After his name was called, his parents, brother and sister joined him on camera. (His brother, Cole, is an 18-year-old pitcher in the Padres organization.)
Following a grueling seven-game World Series, Bellinger took last week off. He said he began working out again on Monday, though he likely won't do much baseball activity until after Christmas.
Bellinger struggled in his first postseason, batting just .219 with 29 strikeouts. Still, he went deep three times, while starring defensively in the first two rounds. When asked, Bellinger was quick to point out that the Dodgers' loss to Houston in the Fall Classic will serve as fuel for the 2018 season.
"Obviously, we didn't have our end goal this year," Bellinger said. "But we're going to try to take it to the next level next year. ... It's definitely a motivator. I know the taste in everyone's mouth after we lost was sour."
For now, he has to settle for some individual hardware -- though he was quick to credit his teammates for helping him along the way. With Bellinger's accolades, Los Angeles became the first club to boast consecutive Rookie of the Year Award winners since the 2004-05 Oakland A's. It's the first time an NL franchise has done so since the Dodgers took home five straight from 1992-96.
"Now that the season's over, I'm really trying to reflect on how crazy this season was," Bellinger said. "To have this award to top it off and be a part of those big-name guys -- it's special to me."