We often hear about players in all sports whose antics we would consider less than stellar. We do not, however, often enough hear about the positive influence or behaviors that so many players demonstrate. Well, Red Sox fans will hear about this one player in particular — Garin Cecchini — for what he does both on and off the field. Cecchini’s on-field performance in the Majors may have to wait a little longer, but it is coming. His off-field actions we will gladly accept right now.
MLB.com’s Jim Callis reports that Cecchini earned the 2013 Arizona Fall League Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award. The AFL proudly proclaimed the announcement on November 16 just before the championship game.
— Arizona Fall League (@MLBazFallLeague) November 16, 2013
The award is named in honor of Dernell Stenson, former Cincinnati Reds outfield prospect murdered in 2003. Stenson played in 37 games for the Reds in 2003, and he lost his life on November 5 while playing in the Arizona Fall League season. The award requires its recipient to demonstrate three main qualities: selflessness, strong work ethic, and leadership. Each of the six league managers nominates one player from his team, and league officials select the winner.
Cecchini has won baseball performance awards, but he considers this one the best because it honors his character rather than his physical ability. He discussed his joy before playing in the AFL championship game. Said Cecchini,
“This has to be the top honor I’ve ever received. You always want to be recognized for your on-field performance, but to be recognized for your off-field performance, for being a good teammate, for your character, it’s humbling.”
As fans, we often want the players who produce the best: slug the long balls, score the touchdowns, slam dunk the hardest, or strike out the most hitters. We often forgive them for getting into trouble off the field as long as they produce in the games. We criticize players who make millions every year when they do not perform up to expectations even when they show strong character. We often forget — or do not even hear about — the charitable contributions that players make to those in need.
Callis informs us that Cecchini works hard at charity including funding missionary work in Nicaragua and providing baseball equipment to orphanages. He has donated money to the Jimmy Fund, the Red Sox’ partner in the fight against cancer.
On the field, Cecchini looks like a true prospect. He has not yet broken into the Majors, but in his three-year Minor League career, the young third-baseman has hit .312 with 86 stolen bases in 279 games between A and AA ball. He hit .322 in 2013 combining High-A Salem and AA Portland performance. Minor League manager Gary Kendall described Cecchini in the following way:
“He plays the game the right way. He plays hard from start to finish. He’s a good guy in the clubhouse, he’s a good guy in the dugout and he’s a good player.”
The Red Sox have a solid player looking forward to his Major League debut, possibly in 2014. Fans can look forward to seeing him display his talent on the field and his personality everywhere else. Congratulations, Garin Cecchini.