The MLB Players Alumni Association elects one player that has risen above the rest every year in their vigor for the game. For the Colorado Rockies, Tony Wolters was chosen to be their 15th winner of the Heart and Hustle Award Tuesday.
Normally behind the plate, Wolters has shown many times that his effort knows no bounds. For that, his skipper Bud Black has constant admiration.
“(Wolters) really really enjoys playing,” Black said. “He loves this game (and) I think he never once (has taken) it for granted.”
The nomination comes in the midst of a breakout season for the infielder-turned-catcher. Wolters currently boasts a career-high .289 average at the plate, including 14 extra-base hits, just shy of his career-high (20).
Where Wolters has really shown his ability to change games is behind the plate. Long regarded as a league-leading pitcher framer, he’s also cut down 13 runners, tied for the third-best mark among National League catchers, in nearly 20 fewer games.
Tasked with the league’s most grueling position, Black sees several parallels between the award’s meaning and Wolters’ game.
“(Catcher) is such a demanding position,” Black said. “It’s such a visible, every-pitch position, (that) you can’t ever take a play off. You truly do have to hustle every play and I think because of the position and what it demands, physically, mentally – you need a tremendous amount of will power.”
Wolters has played a large role in the Rockies’ catching position and it’s rise. After receiving a mere .206 average from the position last year, the club has seen the production soar to the tune of a .265 mark this year.
The backstop joins a group of Trevor Story and two-time nominee, Charlie Blackmon, as the club’s active recipients of the honor. The Rockies have yet to have a player win the league-wide nod in its short-lived history.