OTTAWA – Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins has been named the 2008 Tip O’Neill Award winner as presented by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
The award is presented annually to the player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball's highest ideals. It is the second time in three years that the New Westminster, BC slugger has received the honour, and by doing so he becomes the fourth Canadian to win it more than once.
The 2008 runner-up for the American League MVP award joins Jason Bay and Eric Gagné as two-time winners and now trails only Larry Walker, who was awarded the Tip nine times over his prolific career.
”I've got a long way to go to match Larry - he's a Hall of Famer in my books,” says Morneau in a statement to the CBHoF. “But anytime you want to mention my name in the same sentence as his, that's cool with me!”
In his fifth full Major League season, Morneau hit .300 with 23 home runs, 47 doubles and 129 RBI (2nd in AL). The left-handed hitting first-baseman has amassed over his career so far 133 homers, 754 hits and 523 RBI which are all ahead of Walker at the same point in his career.
Morneau beat out players like Jason Bay of the Boston Red Sox, Ryan Dempster of the Chicago Cubs and Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds for the award.
“Ryan (Dempster) had a great year,” says Morneau of his Canadian counterpart. “Not only did he return to being a starter, but he was dominant, and won 17 games in a hitters' park! He is aggressive on the mound and one of the game's most fun guys to be around.”
“(Jason) Bay's hard work paid off this year, getting himself into a pennant race thanks to the trade, and he performed big-time in the playoffs. Now that he is in Boston, his talent is really going to be given the attention he deserves.”
Also among the top vote getters was Ashley Stephenson of the Women’s National Team. She hit for a .625 average at the Women’s World Cup this past summer and earned the team’s MVP honours.
“I haven't met Ashley, but it really made me feel good to learn about her accomplishments,” says Morneau. “She must be pretty special. I don't remember ever hitting .625, well, not for more than two games in a row anyway!”
Morneau will receive the Tip O'Neill trophy and silver plate at a ceremony in Minneapolis early in the 2009 season.
Past winners of the James "Tip" O'Neill Award:
1984 - Terry Puhl
1985 - Dave Shipanoff
1986 - Rob Ducey
1987 - Larry Walker
1988 - Kevin Reimer
1989 - Steve Wilson
1990 - Larry Walker
1991 - Daniel Brabant
1992 - Larry Walker
1993 - Rob Butler
1994 - Larry Walker
1995 - Larry Walker
1996 - Jason Dickson
1997 - Larry Walker
1998 - Larry Walker
1999 - Jeff Zimmerman
2000 - Ryan Dempster
2001 - Corey Koskie & Larry Walker
2002 - Eric Gagné & Larry Walker
2003 - Eric Gagné
2004 - Jason Bay
2005 - Jason Bay
2006 - Justin Morneau
2007 - Russell Martin
2008 - Justin Morneau