Twins honor Oliva's legacy at Diamond Awards
Carew on hand for teammate's tribute; Mauer named MVP for third time
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins hosted their annual Diamond Awards on Thursday night, and the show was highlighted by Twins great Tony Oliva receiving the Herb Carneal Lifetime Achievement Award.
Hall of Famer Rod Carew was on hand to present the award to Oliva, whom he still affectionately refers to as "Roomie" after they shared a room on the road as Minnesota teammates for 10 seasons from 1967-76. The award is named after Carneal, who was the voice of the Twins from 1962-2006.
"I want to thank the baseball writers and the Twins organization for allowing me to bestow this award, because I don't know if you could find a nicer person in the world," Carew said of Oliva. "He always has a smile on his face and has nice things to say about people. If you can find someone in this area that has one bad thing to say about Tony Oliva, I'd like to find them, because that's the type of individual he is. He's very loving and very caring."
Oliva, 75, played 15 big league seasons -- all with the Twins -- hitting .304/.353/.476 with 220 home runs, 329 doubles, 947 RBIs, 870 runs and 86 stolen bases in 1,676 games. He was also the American League batting champion in each of his first two full seasons in 1964 and '65, and was an All-Star for eight straight years. He also won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in '64 and finished in the top five in AL Most Valuable Player balloting in '64, '65 and '70.
But Oliva is just as remembered for his work off the field, serving the organization in a number of roles, such as coaching, broadcasting and as an ambassador for the Twins and Major League Baseball.
"I love what I do," Oliva said. "When they told me I was going to receive the Herb Carneal Award, it was something that really hit me, because I had the opportunity to meet Herb in person, and he was one of the best baseball announcers. But for me, I think people in this part of the country think of him as a Hall of Famer, and he was nothing but a gentleman."
Oliva's award was just one highlight of another successful Diamond Awards, with winners based on voting conducted by the Twin Cities Chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Several Twins were on hand for the ceremony, including Joe Mauer, Glen Perkins, Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon, Caleb Thielbar, Andrew Albers and recent signees Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes.
Mauer was named the Twins MVP for the third time in five years, receiving the Calvin R. Griffith Award, and also presented Perkins with the Carl R. Pohlad Community Service Award. Perkins also received the Joseph W. Haynes Award for Pitcher of the Year.
Dozier took him two awards, receiving the Charles O. Johnson Award for Most Improved Player and the Mike Augustin "Media Good Guy" Award.
Thielbar was named the winner of the Bill Boni Award given to the Most Outstanding Rookie, while Florimon was the second recipient of the Jim Kaat Award for Defensive Player of the Year.
Former Twins first baseman Justin Morneau was named the winner of the Bob Allison Award, given to the player who exemplifies determination, hustle, tenacity, competitive spirit and leadership both on and off the field. Morneau, who signed with the Rockies this offseason as a free agent, taped an acceptance speech.
Like Morneau, Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann wasn't on hand to receive the Dick Siebert Award given to the Upper Midwest Player of the Year. Zimmermann, who grew up in Auburndale, Wis., had a 3.25 ERA in 32 starts for Washington last season.
Albers, who is close to officially joining the Hanwha Eagles of the Korean Baseball Organization, was there to receive the Jim Rantz Award for Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Byron Buxton, who was named baseball's top prospect by MLB.com on Thursday, was also on hand to receive the Sherry Robertson Award for Minor League Player of the Year.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire helped introduce former Twins skipper Frank Quilici, who received the Kirby Puckett Alumni Community Service Award. Steve Winfield, the brother of Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, received the Terry Ryan Friend of the Game Award for his efforts in coaching youth baseball.
All proceeds from the sold-out event benefitted the University of Minnesota's innovative research and patient care, focused on ataxia, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS).
The event, which was held for a ninth time, has raised $4 million since its inception, and Oliva said he couldn't be any prouder to be a part of the Twins organization.
"It was a privilege to play for the Minnesota Twins, and it's privilege to work for the Minnesota Twins and live in Minnesota because people in Minnesota care," Oliva said. "I've been in Minnesota for 52 years, almost 53, and this is my family. For me, Minnesota is my family."