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Since 2005, the annual individual Irish League awards given out to the players in Irish baseball have had an Irish Flavour in an effort to pay homage to the great Irish players who played in the Major Leagues from years gone by. For example, instead of the traditional Cy Young Award being given to the League's Top Pitcher, recipients are presented with the 'Tommy Bond' Best Pitcher Award.
Saturday night passed in Dublin saw the Irish Baseball League end of season party and awards night.
The Dublin City Hurricanes, after a superb 13-3 regular season and Irish League pennant, were disappointed to lose the playoff finals to the Spartans, however received a big lift when two of their players took the two big individual awards on the night.
The Irish League MVP award, called the Andy Leonard award, went to 'Big Game' Andy Martin. The Irish League best pitcher award, called the Tommy Bond award, went to Cormac Eklof.
For more on the players the awards were named after, check out the very bottom of this piece.
Ironically In 2004 Big Game Andy won the 'Silver Slugger' award, given to the best batter in the league that season, whilst Eklof won the best pitcher award that season also. Perhaps in 2013 they will replicate the double-win feat yet again.
Andy's award is testament to an absolutely superb season both at the plate and in the field.
Big Game Andy's 2009 season with the bat;
''The stand out offensive performance of the Hurricanes ’09 season was, as it often is, Andy Martin’s amazing season with the lumber. Once again Andy was a terror to pitching all around the league, leading the ‘Canes in hits, runs, walks, doubles and OBP. Andy knocked 16 base hits, crossed home plate 20 times, walked 18 times and cracked 7 doubles. Andy’s on base percentage was a simply sensational .581, meaning he reached base in almost 6 out of 10 plate appearances. You can’t make that kind of stuff up.''Martin also made several sensational plays in the field through the course of the season. This from the 'Canes 10-2 win over Greystones in late August;
''The play of the day was made by Andy Martin. A Mariner hit a roller to short that took a wicked hop up towards Andy's right shoulder, away from his glove. Andy hopped, grabbed the ball with his bare hand as it tried to loop past him, and fired a strike to first for the out. There isn't one single player in Irish baseball that would have made that play any sweeter than the 'Canes veteran infielder did.''When reached for comment on Andy's 2009 season, Hurricanes skipper Steve Divito brought up Andy's game winning hit against Greystones in the playoff semi final.
''Bottom of the sixth, we tied the game. As we walked to the infield (Andy at 3b and me at ss), Andy said and I quote 'sorry you're not going to get another at bat today'. Bottom of the seventh, Andy comes up with one out and Vegas on second. I don't even pick up my bat or go through my pre-bat routine. i just stand there and watch Andy smash a ball to right field to knock in the winning run. That's Andy Martin.''More amazing yet, Andy played the entire season without a belt. To this date, no one knows why.
Meanwhile, Eklof snuck past other worthy pitchers such as Niall Rowen and Andrei Apostaoie in the race to the Tommy Bond award. He posted an 11-1 record in the regular season and will reportedly now be endorsing Red Bull and Advil in the offseason.
More on the players the awards are named after
The 'Andy Leonard 'League MVP Award
Andy Leonard from Co Cavan, was indeed one of the nine "First Boys of Summer" and the only Irish-born player on the World Champion Cincinnati Red Stockings team of 1869 and the very first in professional baseball. He continued his feats and helped create and sustain the original Boston Red Stockings championship dynasty from 1872 through 1876 and again in 1878, competing all tolled in six world championships. He had the joint 2nd best career average for an Irish player of .299. He was said to be the finest left fielder of his generation.
The 'Tommy Bond' Best Pitcher Award
Tommy Bond was born in Granard in Co Longford in 1856. He became the first triple crown pitcher when he led the National League with 40 wins, 170 strikeouts, and a 2.11 ERA for Boston in 1877.