Monday, January 29, 2007

MVP Trophy completes Howard's Haul

NEW YORK - The Ryan Howard off-season awards tour is all but complete - as is the Phillies first baseman's haul from his MVP season.

On the night of Jan. 28, Howard rounded out his collection of hardware in style, officially receiving the Kenesaw Mountain Landis National League Most Valuable Player trophy, the award voted him by the Baseball Writers Association of America after his breakout 58-home run, 149-RBI campaign in 2006.

Surrounded by family, manager Charlie Manuel and a large contingent of Phillies front-office personnel, Howard was presented the plaque at the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America's 84th annual dinner by no less than Tony Gwynn, an outfielder who is scheduled for induction into the Hall of Fame this summer.

The youthful Phillies first baseman - flanked on the dais by the likes of Hall of Famers Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson and the soon-to-be inducted Cal Ripken - was joined by his fellow 2006 BBWAA national award winners.

That group included managers of the year Jim Leyland of Detroit and Joe Girardi, formerly of the Florida Marlins; American League MVP Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins, rookies of the year Hanley Ramirez (Florida) and Justin Verlander (Detroit), and Cy Young Award winners Brandon Webb (Arizona) and Johan Santana (Minnesota).

"Truly an honor to be here," said Howard. "Last year, I never would have thought it. The company here - Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken, Reggie Jackson - I've got to admit it, I'm still a fan and I am in awe."

The New York writers reserved a special place for Howard, making him the next-to-last recipient, followed only by Toast of the Town co-recipients Jose Reyes and David Wright.

Howard, previously honored this winter by writers in St. Louis and Boston, was afforded the best-supporting role by the New York writers thanks to his having won two awards. He was also given the New York chapter's Sid Mercer Award as player of the year. The latter is the second such honor for Howard in less than a week. Last Monday, he was feted as the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association's player of the year.

"I don't know if he'll get 58 home runs, again, but I tell what - I watched him practice, I watched him prepare," said Gwynn, who recalled Howard's work ethic when Howard traveled to California to practice with Gwynn's college baseball team at San Diego State University.

"For two days my guys sat there with their mouths open, not watching Ryan Howard hit with power, but watching Ryan Howard hit off a T. We were dumbfounded, the things he did with a baseball bat were truly amazing."

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