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Saturday January 19, 2013Mike Zunino Presented With 2012 Dick Howser Trophy

Gainesville, Fla.

Former Florida catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) was presented the 2012 Dick Howser Trophy on Saturday afternoon at the Gator men’s basketball game against Missouri by David Feaster, a 1976 alumnus of Florida, and the Executive Director of the Dick Howser Trophy.


Zunino was the 26th recipient of the Dick Howser Trophy, presented by Easton Foundations, as College Baseball's Player of the Year. He became the first University of Florida player to win the Dick Howser Trophy in a group represented by 20 different schools and 13 conferences since its inception in 1987 with Miami (Fla.) standout Mike Fiore. Zunino also claimed the Johnny Bench Award and the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award last season, marking the first time that a UF player had received each honor.


Zunino was Florida’s “Triple Crown” winner last season in helping the Gators to their third-consecutive NCAA College World Series appearance, leading the team in batting average (.322), RBI (67) and homers (19). The Cape Coral, Fla., native paced the Orange and Blue in total bases (164), doubles (28), sacrifice flies (11) and slugging percentage (.669). He was also 9-for-10 on the basepaths.


According to the final 2012 NCAA statistics, Zunino was first nationally in sacrifice flies, third in doubles, fourth in round-trippers, fifth in total bases, ninth in doubles per game, 10th in RBI and 11th in slugging percentage. A two-time, first-team All-SEC recipient and two-time member of the league’s All-Defensive Team, the three-year starter registered a .994 fielding percentage in his final campaign, with three errors in 510 chances, and threw out 20 runners who attempted to steal on him.


On June 4, he became the highest draft choice in school history as the No. 3 selection in the first round to the Seattle Mariners. That also capped a third-consecutive season on the All-Tournament Team of the NCAA Gainesville Regional and back-to-back Super Regional crowns over Mississippi State and NC State. Zunino was the first UF standout to be drafted in the first round since Matt LaPorta in 2007.


"Mike Zunino epitomizes the true qualities of Dick Howser - ability, leadership, character, and courage," said Feaster. "He has taken Florida to new heights in the past two years as well as being a tremendous team leader and go-to student-athlete in all areas."


After passing on a 30th-round draft selection by the Oakland A's when he was a senior at Mariner High School in 2009, Zunino excelled with the bat and catcher's mitt while becoming one of the top players in UF’s history.


As a sophomore, he became the second Gator in history to be chosen as SEC Player of the Year, along with LaPorta in 2005 and '07. It also marked the first of his two-consecutive times being a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award as National Division I Catcher of the Year. He also was a semifinalist for both the Dick Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes Award.


In 2010 as a freshman, Zunino was both a Freshman All-America and SEC All-Freshman squad member. He was both Florida's starting catcher and designated hitter and earned the first of his three All-Tournament accolades in the NCAA Gainesville Regional by batting .364 with a 4-for-11 showing.


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 for the trophy include performance on the field, leadership, moral character, and courage, qualities which were exemplified by Dick Howser's life.


A Florida native, Howser was twice an All-American shortstop at Florida State (1957-58), then head coach of the Seminoles in 1979 after a career as a Major League player and coach. After one year in the college ranks, he 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.


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