SAN DIEGO - The Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission announced the official watch list for the 2014 Johnny Bench Award presented by BaseballSavings.com. Seventy-two catchers , highlighted by the University of San Diego's junior catcher Connor Joe, were nominated for the award by their coaches. Because the award is given annually to the top division one collegiate catcher, the list will be updated to include other candidates until May 5, 2014.
Joe, a 6-0 junior from Poway, Calif., is currently hitting .357 with 15 hits, two doubles, one triple, three home runs, and 16 RBI. Joe spent this past summer transitioning from infielder to catcher, and he was an Cape Cod All-Star for his efforts. This past season, Joe was a first-team All-WCC selection after hitting 319, while recording 74 hits, 14 doubles, seven home runs and 43 RBI.
The watch list will be narrowed down to the semifinalists, whom will be announced May 15, 2014. Ballots will be sent to the national voting panel at the end of May for a vote to determine the three finalists. The finalists will be announced June 3, 2014. A final vote among the national committee will occur during the College World Series. All finalists will be brought to Wichita and the winner will be announced at the 17th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet on June 26, 2014.
"We are extremely appreciative to BaseballSavings.com and Mr. Johnny Bench for supporting this prestigious award," stated Bob Hanson, President/CEO of the Sports Commission. "They are the ones who make all of this possible."
While Bench is remembered for his offense, he may have had the greatest impact behind the plate. He was the first receiver to use a protective helmet in the field, popularized catching one-handed and kept his throwing hand behind his back to protect it from foul tips.
Bench's career honors include: National League Rookie of the Year (1968); National League Most Valuable Player (1970, 1972); World Series Most Valuable Player (1976); 14-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner. In 1980, he set an endurance record by catching 100+ games for 13 consecutive seasons. Bench was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in January 1989 with the fourth highest percentage of total votes cast.