Award allows Beckham to give back
Rookie voted most outstanding in AL by Players Association
CHICAGO -- Celebrating achievements during the postseason, even if they currently are of the individual variety, will never grow old for Gordon Beckham.
But Monday's announcement by the Major League Baseball Players Association concerning Beckham taking home the 2009 Players Choice honors for Outstanding Rookie in the American League holds a deeper subtext than simply the White Sox third baseman's second recognition by his peers in one week. The setup of this award allows the winner to recommend the charity of his choice to receive a grant from the Major League Baseball Players Trust.
Beckham split the grant between the National Parkinson Foundation and Children's Hospital of Illinois.
"Absolutely, it's nice to be able to use this award to help others. It's almost more important, honestly," said Beckham, during a phone interview from Georgia. "I've told everyone awards are great, and they mean a lot.
"To be able to win an award like that and then they say, 'Here's the [grant money],' it's a great concept from the MLBPA. The award represents a great accomplishment, but this takes precedent over the award."
Beckham chose the National Parkinson Foundation because his father's stepfather is suffering from the illness.
"He's done so much for me and my family," Beckham said of his grandfather. "It has plagued him. It's a disease that I would like to see get out of here."
As for the Children's Hospital of Illinois, Beckham made that decision partially based on his complete and utter respect for Jim Thome. The White Sox designated hitter for most of the past four years, before being traded to the Dodgers at the start of September, has been involved with the tremendous work done by the hospital through the Joyce Thome Benefit, hosted annually by Thome for the past 14 years in his hometown of Peoria, Ill.
Specifically, Beckham was moved by some of the money being earmarked for neonatal intensive care. Basically, the 23-year-old was trying to return some of the kindness shown to him by one of the most likable players in the game.
"Jim has been so good to me. He's been a big inspiration to my baseball career thus far," Beckham said. "So, this sounded like a great thing to do."
Since Thome departed for the West Coast, Beckham said they have communicated via text messages -- talking primarily about deer hunting. Even with Thome gone, Beckham won't forget the impact he had on his rookie season.
Observing a player who carries himself as Thome does is an easy way for a youngster to learn, as Beckham explained. But Thome went the extra mile to make Beckham feel welcome after he joined the White Sox on June 4.
"I remember he set me up with gift cards at Nordstrom's to go buy a suit, and I went to dinners with him," Beckham said. "Jim took the time to talk with me and be around me.
"It was special, more than probably he knows. It means a lot when someone as great as Jim, as both a person and a player, takes you out and puts you underneath his wing."
Taking home another award as voted on by his peers means something special to Beckham. He was named the AL Rookie of the Year by Sporting News last Tuesday in a vote by a panel of 338 Major League players. Monday's announcement was the result of balloting among all Major League players, conducted in September under the supervision of accounting firm KPMG.
Players Choice Awards annually recognize the best player, pitcher, rookie and comeback player in each league. The Player of the Year and Marvin Miller Man of the Year awards recognize top honors without regard to league. Beckham beat out Texas infielder Elvis Andrus and Tampa Bay starter Jeff Niemann, with Detroit hurler Rick Porcello surprisingly not in the final three. Porcello is thought to be the front-runner for the official AL Rookie of the Year Award, as voted on by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, to be announced after the World Series.
When asked for his rookie vote, Beckham admitted to throwing his support behind a teammate and fellow White Sox infielder.
"Chris Getz, that's who I voted for," Beckham said. "I felt like he does such a good job. I don't know if he got a ton of votes, but he deserved them."
Philadelphia hurler J.A. Happ, a native of downstate Spring Valley, Ill., and a one-time pitcher at Northwestern University, was the National League Players Choice Outstanding Rookie. Happ also won honors from The Sporting News.
In the short run, and the long run, for that matter, Beckham would like to be in Happ's position on Wednesday, beginning World Series play. For now, the eighth pick overall in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft can look back with pride at his .270 average, with 14 home runs, 63 RBIs and 28 doubles in just 103 games.
He can show satisfaction for the great defensive skill exhibited at third, a position where Beckham had played just seven games at Triple-A Charlotte. And he can feel satisfaction in that his own success will benefit others in this specific instance.
"I'd be lying if I say this is the only award I want to win. Really, I want to win a World Series," Beckham said. "But this is pretty special and real special to my family. I'm very proud to be where I'm at and to start as well as I have."
Tuesday's Players Choice announcement will focus on AL and NL comeback player, with Scott Podsednik joining Aaron Hill and Russell Branyan as the three AL finalists.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.