Albert Pujols, whose elite career reached new heights this season, was selected by his peers as baseball's best player in 2009, while Curtis Granderson was recognized for his commitment to the community and on-field excellence with the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award.
The Major League Baseball Players Association's two most prestigious honors were announced on Friday and culminated a week in which the Players Choice Awards, presented by Upper Deck, were revealed exclusively on ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike in the Morning show in daily segments.
On Monday, Gordon Beckham of the White Sox and J.A. Happ of the Phillies were named the outstanding rookies in their leagues. On Tuesday, Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals and Aaron Hill of the Blue Jays were named the Outstanding Comeback players. On Wednesday, Zack Greinke and Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals were named the Outstanding Pitchers in each league. Joe Mauer of the Twins and Pujols were named the Outstanding Players in their leagues on Thursday.
Mauer and Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins were the runners up in player voting for the overall Player of the Year award, as Pujols distinguished himself with a season that was incredible even by his high standards.
It is the eighth Players Choice Award for Pujols, dating from 2001, when he received the NL Outstanding Rookie award to 2008, when he also won both the NL Outstanding Player and the overall Player of the Year. The 29-year-old Dominican-born slugger has hit better than .300 with 30-plus homers and 100-plus RBIs for nine consecutive seasons and made himself the face of the Cardinals for a generation of fans.
This season Pujols won his first home run title with a Major League-leading 47 and led St. Louis on a second-half surge to win the NL Central.
"When you go to Spring Training, you don't think about this award," Pujols told Mike and Mike in the Morning hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic. "All you want to do is prepare yourself for winning and getting to the postseason. ... The players voting for you is the reward, but all of your concentration and hard work is to take the team to the postseason."
It was the second consecutive year Pujols has won the Players Choice Awards for both the NL Outstanding Player and the overall Player of the Year.
Players across both leagues noticed Granderson's tireless commitment to the community almost as much as the exciting brand of baseball he brings to the outfield and base paths.
Granderson, 28, was selected for his first All-Star Game this year and positioned himself as one of the game's few genuine "five-tool" threats with a career-high 30 home runs, but he received the Marvin Miller Award because of the upbeat and enthusiastic manner in which he immerses himself in an ever-growing range of causes that are close to his heart.
The Tigers' fleet center fielder, who was raised in a family of educators, extended his community spirit to professional baseball when he was drafted in the third round in 2002. He has adroitly used the platform to promote awareness and lead by example. He has served as an ambassador for Major League Baseball International, traveling to Italy, China and South Africa and, in 2008, established the Grand Kids Foundation to serve as an umbrella organization for the range of educational causes with which he aligns himself.
"We all have talent and do great things out there but you try to take that ability and the fact that the fans love you and look up to you, and you use that to do different things in your respective cities," Granderson said. "It's an honor. That the players around the league have acknowledged that is a great honor, too."
An accomplished writer whose blogs have appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, Granderson became an author in August when his book, All You Can Be: Dream It, Draw It, Become It!, was published. In the book, Granderson "shares the lessons that he learned growing up -- the importance of family and choosing the right friends, the power of listening and staying positive, and, most important, the value of being yourself."
Granderson has also taken a lead role in the Major League Baseball Players Trust's national youth service program called The Action Team, regularly speaking with groups of community service-minded high school students to help inspire their efforts in their local communities. The program, in partnership with Volunteers of America, has grown to include 154 high schools across the U.S., including Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
"We tell them that you don't have to be rich or a famous athlete to go out and do things that have a big impact. That's what the Action Teams are doing," Granderson said. "It's been amazing being part of that, going to senior citizen homes and playing Nintendo Wii with them, cooking for them, planting flowers in their yards for them."
Each 2009 Players Choice Award winner recommends the charity of his choice to receive a grant from the Major League Baseball Players Trust. Since 1992, the Players Trust has contributed more than $3.5 million to charities around the world in honor of Players Choice Award winners.
Neither Pujols nor Granderson, who both support numerous causes, specified a charity that would benefit from their Players Trust grant.
"It's going to be education," Granderson said. "I don't know exactly where yet, but it's going to help further education in the state of Michigan."
The Players Choice Awards are selected by the players in balloting conducted in September under the supervision of the accounting firm KPMG.
The 2009 Players Choice Awards finalists are [winners in bold]:
Outstanding Rookie: Elvis Andrus (Texas), Gordon Beckham (Chicago White Sox), Jeff Niemann (Tampa Bay)
Comeback Player: Russell Branyan (Seattle), Aaron Hill (Toronto) , Scott Podsednik (Chicago White Sox)
Outstanding Pitcher: Roy Halladay (Toronto), Zack Greinke (Kansas City), C.C. Sabathia (NY Yankees)
Outstanding Player: Derek Jeter (NY Yankees), Joe Mauer (Minnesota) , Kendry Morales (LA Angels of Anaheim)
Outstanding Rookie: Chris Coghlan (Florida), Tommy Hanson (Atlanta), J.A. Happ (Philadelphia)
Comeback Player: Aaron Boone (Houston), Chris Carpenter (St. Louis) , Nick Johnson (Florida)
Outstanding Pitcher: Chris Carpenter (St. Louis), Tim Lincecum (San Francisco), Adam Wainwright (St. Louis)
Outstanding Player: Prince Fielder (Milwaukee), Albert Pujols (St. Louis) , Hanley Ramirez (Florida)
Marvin Miller Man of the Year: Curtis Granderson (Detroit) , Torii Hunter (LA Angeles of Anaheim), Albert Pujols (St. Louis)
Player of Year: Joe Mauer (Minnesota), Albert Pujols (St. Louis) , Hanley Ramirez (Florida)
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.