Senior catcher Anthony Azar has been named to the Johnny Bench Award Watch List, the award given annually to the top division one collegiate catcher. Azar is a two-time member of the All-Southland Conference first team and was selected to the preseason all-league team.
The Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission announced the official watch list for the 2014 Johnny Bench Award presented by BaseballSavings.com. Seventy-two catchers were nominated for the award.
Azar is batting .318 in 11 starts this season and has driven in six runs and scored four runs. The Woodlands High School product has committed just one error and has just one passed ball.
The Southland is represented on the list by Azar and SFA’s Joseph Olson.
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.
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.
Johnny Bench presented Ole Miss catcher, Stuart Turner, with the award last June in Wichita, Kansas. Mitchell Garver of the University of New Mexico and Zane Evans of Georgia Tech were the other finalists for the award.