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Friday May 20, 2011UF's Brian Johnson & Mike Zunino Named Dick Howser Trophy Semifinalists

Gainesville, Fla.

University of Florida sophomore left-hander/designated hitter Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) and sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) were chosen as semifinalists for the 2011 Dick Howser Trophy, given to the top player in collegiate baseball, it was announced on Friday by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, working in conjunction with the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the College Baseball Foundation.

 

Johnson has been a dual threat for the fourth-ranked Gators (40-14/21-7 SEC) on the mound and at the plate. The lefty is 8-3 with a 3.58 earned run average and leads the Orange and Blue with 68 strikeouts in 78 innings, while limiting opponents to a .246 batting average. Johnson is hitting .304 with 23 runs, 19 RBI, 10 doubles, three homers and a pair of doubles.

 

Among the SEC leaders in an assortment of offensive statistics, Zunino paces the Gators in the “Triple Crown” categories with a .376 clip, 58 RBI and 15 homers. The catcher also has team-bests in hits (73), runs scored (58), doubles (18), slugging percentage (.701) and on-base percentage (.448). Over his last three games, Zunino is 6-for-11 (.545) with 12 RBI and five homers, including a pair of round-trippers in crucial SEC victories over No. 2 Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

 

The membership of the NCBWA will choose the Dick Howser Trophy Award recipient based on two rounds of national voting. This year’s 25th anniversary of the Dick Howser Trophy presented by Easton Foundations will be made even more special by the awarding of this year’s honor at TD Ameritrade Stadium in downtown Omaha, the new home of the College World Series. The award will be presented on Tuesday, June 21 at 10 a.m. CT, prior to the fourth day of the 2011 CWS.

 

The candidates hail from 17 different conferences and 28 different schools. The Southeastern Conference leads the way with six semifinalists, followed by the ACC with four and the Big XII, Conference USA, Missouri Valley and the Southern Conference with three. Every position on the diamond is represented, including eight starting pitchers, four outfielders, utility players and three catchers, first basemen, relief pitchers and shortstop, among this diversified group.

 

The Dick Howser Trophy, given in memory of the former Florida State University All-America shortstop and major league player and manager, who died of brain cancer in 1987, is regarded by many as college baseball's most prestigious award.  Criteria for consideration of the trophy include performance on the field, leadership, moral character and courage, qualities that were exemplified by Dick Howser's life.

 

A Florida native, Howser was twice an All-America shortstop at Florida State (1957-58), then coached the Seminoles in 1979, after a career as a major league player and coach. After one year in the college ranks, Howser returned to the majors to manage the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals and won the World Series with the Royals in 1985. The baseball stadium on the Florida State campus is named for Howser.

 

“The Dick Howser Trophy was founded shortly after his death by a few friends of Dick’s in the St. Petersburg Area that played, coached and worked with him,” said David Feaster of the Howser Trophy Committee. “All knew him personally and were aware of him as a tremendous player, coach and friend. The award was initially awarded at the Governors Baseball Dinner held each spring in St. Petersburg to welcome Spring Training to Florida and, as time progressed, we moved the presentation to Omaha, the center of college baseball, during the World Series. I have been involved with the award for over 20 years and have loved every minute of my involvement. I have had the opportunity to meet some great college players as well as some great young men. I am so proud of the Character quality we have in our award, which makes it unique. I am also proud of our selection process by the NCBWA which is the most democratic of any award and provides a true national scope.”

 

“The Dick Howser Trophy is now 25 years old and growing stronger,” added Feaster. “It is a true testimony to Dick Howser’s ability as a player, coach and gentlemen. I am proud to be associated with it.”

 

The winner's name is inscribed on the permanent trophy, a bronze bust of Howser displayed at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg - home of the defending American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays and the 1999 NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four – along with several other locations. Both the winner and his school receive a special trophy to keep.

 

NCBWA membership includes writers, broadcasters and publicists. Designed to promote and publicize college baseball, it is the sport's only college media-related organization, founded in 1962.

 

The College Baseball Foundation was established in 2004 and has inducted 57 greats into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in Lubbock. The group promotes the highest ideals and recognition of greatness on college baseball diamonds in the 150 years since the first intercollegiate contest in 1859 between Amherst and Williams.

 

The groups also have come together in 2011 to select the Dick Howser Trophy, Brooks Wallace Award (Division I Shortstop of the Year), NCBWA Stopper of the Year, CBF Pitcher of the Year, John Olerud Award (top two-way player) and NCBWA National Coach of the Year. The NCBWA All-America and Freshman All-America teams, the NCBWA Freshman Player and Pitcher of the Year also are being presented by these national entities.

 

The Howser Trophy was created in 1987, shortly after Howser's death.  Previous winners of the Howser Trophy are Mike Fiore, Miami, 1987; Robin Ventura, Oklahoma State, 1988; Scott Bryant, Texas, 1989; Alex Fernandez, Miami-Dade Community College South, 1990; Frank Rodriguez, Howard College (Texas), 1991; Brooks Kieschnick, Texas, 1992 and 1993; Jason Varitek, Georgia Tech, 1994; Todd Helton, Tennessee, 1995; Kris Benson, Clemson, 1996; J. D. Drew, Florida State, 1997; Eddy Furniss, LSU, 1998; Jason Jennings, Baylor, 1999; Mark Teixeira, Georgia Tech, 2000; Mark Prior, P, USC, 2001, Khalil Greene, SS, Clemson, 2002; Rickey Weeks, 2B, Southern U., 2003; Jered Weaver, P, Long Beach State, 2004; Alex Gordon, 3B, Nebraska, 2005; Brad Lincoln, P/DH, Houston, 2006; David Price, P, Vanderbilt, 2007; Buster Posey, C, Florida State, 2008 and Stephen Strasburg, P, San Diego State, 2009; Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice, 2010.

 

 2011 Dick Howser Trophy Semifinalists

 Pos. Name, School

Trever Adams, OF, Creighton

Daniel Aldrich, OF, College of Charleston

James Allen, RP, Kansas State

Trevor Bauer, SP, UCLA

C.J. Cron, 1B, Utah

Cody Fick, UT, Evansville

Grayson Garvin, SP, Vanderbilt

Sean Gilmartin, SP, Florida State

Sonny Gray, SP, Vanderbilt

David Herbek, SS, James Madison

D.J. Hicks, DH, UCF

Jeff Holm, 1B, Michigan State

Danny Hultzen, UT, Virginia

Brian Johnson, UT, FLORIDA

Taylor Jungmann, SP, Texas

Cory Knebel, RP, Texas

Jason Krizan, OF, Dallas Baptist

Tommy La Stella, 2B, Coastal Carolina

Matt Leeds, 3B, College of Charleston

Jake Lowery, C, James Madison

Mikie Mahtook, OF, LSU

Brad Miller, SS, Clemson

Chris O’Brien, C, Wichita State

Dan Paolini, 2B, Siena

Tyler Pill, UT, Cal State Fullerton

Matt Price, RP, South Carolina

Tyler Ray, SP, Troy

Anthony Rendon, DH, Rice

Victor Roache, OF, Georgia Southern

Will Roberts, SP, Virginia

Michael Roth, SP, South Carolina

George Springer, OF, Connecticut

Adam Brett Walker, 1B, Jacksonville

Brad Zebedis, DH, Presbyterian

Mike Zunino, C, FLORIDA

Chad Zurcher, SS, Memphis

 

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