San Diego State right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the likely top choice in next Tuesday's First-Year Player Draft, is one of five finalists for the 2009 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award -- amateur baseball's highest honor. The other finalists are North Carolina first baseman Dustin Ackley, Alabama outfielder Kent Matthes, and right-handed pitchers Mike Leake of Arizona State and A.J. Morris of Kansas State. The presentation of the 32nd annual Golden Spikes Award will once again take center stage at Major League Baseball's All-Star Game, being held on July 14 in St. Louis.
The award will be presented at the All-Star Fan Fest and webcast live as a production of MLB and MLB Advanced Media. In the interim, fans can track the finalists and the award's history at GoldenSpikesAward.com, also powered by MLBAM. The Web site features content devoted exclusively to the award, including news, voting history, past-winner photo galleries, and photographs and video highlights for this year's finalists. The announcement of the finalists was made on Tuesday by USA Baseball (USAB), the nominating committee of which had a typically difficult time whittling down the list of 30 worthy nominees. "As is the case each year, the voting committee was faced with a difficult task," said Paul Seiler, executive director and CEO of USAB. "Dustin Ackley, Mike Leake, Kent Matthes, A.J. Morris and Stephen Strasburg have each had an exceptional year, and they are more than deserving finalists." All are also already well-decorated finalists, their on-field accomplishments observed by numerous awards: Strasburg, who went 13-1 for the Aztecs and led the nation with 195 strikeouts, was college baseball's National Player of the Year and a first-team All-American. He is the first SDSU finalist since Travis Lee won the award in 1996. Ackley became the first three-time All-American in North Carolina history after the 2009 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year led the loop with 101 hits and 21 home runs. He finished his Tar Heels career with 329 hits. Matthes, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, set an Alabama record with his 28 home runs this season. More than half of his hits were for extra bases during a season in which he hit .358 and drove in 81 runs. Leake was the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year for the second straight season on the strength of 15 wins and an ERA of 1.23 while he rang up 143 strikeouts in 123 2/3 innings. He also is a finalist for the national Pitcher of the Year Award. Morris went 14-1 with a 2.09 ERA and set a Kansas State record with his 100 strikeouts on the way to becoming the school's first Golden Spikes finalist. Repeating a selection process adopted in 2007, USAB accepted nominations from sports-information directors across the country. Subsequently, a committee voted to determine 30 semifinalists, whose names were forwarded to a voting body of 125 for selection of the finalists. The same committee is now entrusted with determining the 2009 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award winner.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.