OTTAWA – Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau finished off 2008 with a bang as he was named the 2008 Male Athlete of the Year by both the Canadian Press and the Canwest News Service.
The New Westminster, BC native continued his solid play at the Major League level, hitting .300 with 23 home runs and 129 RBI in 2008.
Morneau beat out athletes such as Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, and Olympians Eric Lamaze and Simon Whitfield for the honour.
“Any time you can beat out a hockey player in anything in Canada, it’s an accomplishment,” says Morneau. “It’s pretty cool, especially with the people who have named to this award.”
Morneau finished second in the American League MVP voting this past season. Other highlights in 2008 include winning the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium, defeating Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers; and scoring the winning run in the 15th inning of the MLB All-Star Game.
His Minnesota Twins also finished a game shy of making the playoffs in a year the team was rebuilding and was expected to struggle. Morneau was looked upon to provide leadership for this young team.
“We have some veteran guys but at the same time, when you hit fourth… you feel like you have some responsibility of being a leader,” says Morneau. “For me it’s not by talking, it’s by example and working hard.”
At the end of the day, Morneau hopes that his accomplishments inspire more Canadians to pursue the game of baseball as their sport; much like Larry Walker did for him.
“Hopefully guys can see (my success) and know there are sports out there other than hockey that Canadian kids can play.”