It isn’t that Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer is unappreciative in receiving individual honors. Far from it. He says he will “embrace” the Joe Burke Special Achievement award for what it represents.
But Hosmer just spent the last few weeks watching postseason baseball — and that's what he wants to be a part of. Further, that’s what he expects as a logical next step in the Royals’ youth-based rebuilding plan under general manager Dayton Moore.
“A lot of young guys went out and proved themselves this year,” Hosmer said. “Toward the end of the year, you were seeing improvement. I think now that guys have gotten their feet wet, and we’ve gotten used to the league, there are no excuses.
“This is the product. This is what the goal has been for the last three or four years. We believe we can go out and do this. I feel like everybody in Kansas City, including the fans, believes we can do this. It’s like now is the time.”
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The Burke award recognizes Hosmer’s seasonlong accomplishments and is one of three postseason presentations determined by the Kansas City Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
“For Eric Hosmer,” manager Ned Yost said, “this is the start of many awards to come for him. We can beat it to death, but he’s going to be a special player. There’s just no way around it.”
The Les Milgram Player of the Year and Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year will be announced later this week. Previous Burke award winners include six players subsequently inducted into the franchise’s Hall of Fame.
The Burke award dates to 1971, the third season in franchise history, but is not presented every year. It seeks to recognize a player who performed beyond expectations or an individual deemed deserving for other contributions.
Recipients are not limited to players, but no non-player has won it since umpire Steve Palermo shared the 1991 honor with infielder Bill Pecota. Left-handed pitcher Bruce Chen was the 2010 winner.
Burke is a member of the Royals’ Hall of Fame. He served as the club’s general manager from 1974-81, a period that coincided with its rise from an expansion franchise to a perennial postseason participant. He became club president in 1981 and served in that role until his death in 1992.
Hosmer’s hardware collection already includes two American League rookie of the month awards and two Royals’ player of the month awards. He batted .293 with 19 homers and 78 RBIs in 128 games following his May 6 promotion from Class AAA Omaha.
“At the beginning of the year,” he said, “my goal was just to get a shot (at the big leagues) and to try and get called up at some time this summer. Now, to receive an award like this, it’s just a crazy feeling.
“But at the same time, when you get an award, you embrace it, but you’ve got to continue to work hard. At the end of the day, the goal is to put Kansas City in a position that St. Louis is in this year.”
Hosmer projects as a strong candidate for the AL’s Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year award. Balloting for that award took place prior to postseason, but the BBWAA won’t announce the winner until Nov. 14.
“That’s one of those things that, if it does happen, it’s a great honor,” Hosmer said. “If it doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world. I’m happy that I got my chance this year to make it to the big leagues and earn my position.
“At the end of the day, the goal for me, by the end of my career, is to win as many world championships as possible. Watching the excitement in St. Louis, I feel, as a baseball player, no individual award can match that feeling.”
Joe Burke Special Achievement award winners
1971: Bob Lemon, Brooks Robinson and Cookie Rojas
1972: George Toma
1973: Steve Busby
1974: Hank Bauer
1978: John Kauffman
1980: Willie Wilson.
1981: Frank White and Bill Gorman
1982: John Wathan, Frank White and Willie Wilson
1983: Lee MacPhail
1984: Greg Pryor
1985: Charlie Leibrandt
1987: Kevin Seitzer
1988: Frank White
1989: Jeff Montgomery
1990: Kevin Appier
1991: Bill Pecota and Steve Palermo
1992: Rusty Meacham
1993: Mike Macfarlane
1995: Keith Lockhart
1996: José Offerman
1997: Jeff Montgomery
1998: Scott Service
1999: Mike Sweeney
2000: Jermaine Dye
2002: Raul Ibañez
2003: Angel Berroa
2006: Mark Grudzielanek
2007: Brian Bannister
2008: Zack Greinke
2009: Alberto Callaspo
2010: Bruce Chen
2011: Eric Hosmer