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|Rhymes Among Three Howser Trophy Finalists|
Three first team All-Americans, including two standouts who have led their respective teams to this week's NCAA Super Regionals, have been named as finalists for the 2012 Dick Howser Trophy presented by Easton Foundations.
Balloting was conducted by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association in conjunction with the College Baseball Foundation, the Dick Howser Trophy committee and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
Utah Valley first baseman Goose Kallunki, LSU outfielder Raph Rhymes and Florida catcher Mike Zunino are the finalists for the prestigious 26th annual awarding of the Howser Trophy.
The winner will be announced on Friday, June 15, at an 11 a.m. (CDT) national news conference at TD Ameritrade Park - the second-year home of the 66th annual NCAA World Series.
Each finalist embodies the major principles of character, leadership, desire, and competitive spirit exhibited by Dick Howser, the All-America shortstop and later head coach at Florida State before managing the Kansas City Royals to the world championship in 1985. He also is the namesake for Dick Howser Stadium at FSU.
Kallunki, the 2012 Great West Player of the Year, was the first Wolverine in school history to receive first-team honors and the program's third All-American in as many years. He led UVU to a 47-win season and their third straight Great West Conference regular season and tournament titles. The Orem, Utah, native leads all Division I players with 86 RBI and is No. 2 in total bases (168), No. 3 in slugging percentage (.734), No. 5 in home runs (18), No. 6 in batting (.419) and No. 8 in hits (96) and on-base percentage (.491). The 27th round draft pick of the San Diego Padres in the 2012 MLB Draft, was a two-time National Player of the Week, and a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award.
Rhymes, the 2012 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, is leading the nation in hitting with a .452 (99-for-219) batting average. He has produced 11 doubles, four home runs and 52 RBI this season. The Monroe, La., native has walked 22 times and struck out only 12 times. He is No. 4 nationally in on-base percentage (.510), No. 6 in hits (99) and is the 13th toughest to strike out. Rhymes was a 30th round draft choice by the New York Yankees in the 2012 MLB Draft, after being in the 40th round last season by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has helped the Tigers to a 46-16 overall record this season, the No. 7 national seed in this year's NCAA Tournament and a matchup with Stony Brook in the Baton Rouge Super Regional this weekend.
Zunino, a two-time All-American and one of the three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award as the nation's top catcher, became the highest-drafted player in Florida history when the Seattle Mariners took him third overall in the MLB draft. The Cape Coral, Fla., native is currently hitting .316 and leads the Gators in doubles (27), home runs (18), RBIs (60) and slugging percentage (.667). The All-SEC first-team catcher ranks No. 2 nationally in doubles (44), No. 5 in home runs and sacrifice flies (9), No. 10 in total bases (154) and No. 13 in slugging percentage (.667). The 2011 SEC Player of the Year is a three-time NCAA Gainesville Regional All-Tournament team selection. He has helped the Gators to a 45-18 record and will be making an appearance in the Gainesville Super Regional this weekend against NC State.
Voting for the Dick Howser Trophy has been conducted by the NCBWA membership since 1999 after the American Baseball Coaches Association selected the recipient from 1987-1998. The NCBWA also selects the Stopper of the Year, the Division I National Coach of the Year and National Freshman Hitter and Pitcher of the Year, along with NCAA Division II and III All-America teams, Players and Coaches of the Year.
The Howser Trophy was created in 1987, shortly after Howser's death. Previous winners of the Howser Trophy are Mike Fiore, Miami, 1987; Robin Ventura, Oklahoma State, 1988; Scott Bryant, Texas, 1989; Alex Fernandez, Miami-Dade Community College South, 1990; Frank Rodriguez, Howard College (Texas), 1991; Brooks Kieschnick, Texas, 1992 and 1993; Jason Varitek, Georgia Tech, 1994; Todd Helton, Tennessee, 1995; Kris Benson, Clemson, 1996; J. D. Drew, Florida State, 1997; Eddy Furniss, LSU, 1998; Jason Jennings, P, Baylor, 1999; Mark Teixeira, 1B, Georgia Tech, 2000; Mark Prior, P, USC, 2001; Khalil Greene, SS, Clemson, 2002; Rickey Weeks, 2B, Southern U., 2003; Jered Weaver, P, Long Beach State, 2004; Alex Gordon, 3B, Nebraska, 2005; Brad Lincoln, P, Houston, 2006; David Price, P, Vanderbilt, 2007; Buster Posey, C, Florida State, 2008; Stephen Strasburg, P, San Diego State, 2009; Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice, 2010 and Taylor Jungmann, Texas, 2011.
Photo courtesy of LSU
Photo caption - Former Neville Tiger and current LSU All-American Raph Rhymes is a Howser Trophy finalist.