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Harmon Killebrew Award for Community Service 2014

A discussion of the greatest players in Minnesota Twins history is certain to prominently include Harmon Killebrew. In the batter’s box, he was an imposing figure, capable of altering a game at any time. His name appears at or near the top of most statistical categories in Twins history.

However, he was also known as a genuinely compassionate man, respectful and helpful. Recently, the Twins announced the Harmon Killebrew Award for Community Service, given to one Twins minor leaguer at each of the four four-season affiliates. Each affiliate’s GM nominated a recipient who exemplifies Killebrew through his work in the community.
Image courtesy of AP Photo
Twins Daily would like to congratulate the 2014 Harmon Killebrew Award winners:
  • Rochester Red Wings – Logan Darnell
  • New Britain Rock Cats – Tony Thomas
  • Ft. Myers Miracle – Tim Shibuya
  • Cedar Rapids Kernels – Tanner Vavra
Twins Minor League Director Brad Steil said, “In partnership with our minor league affiliates, we encourage our players to be active in their community and emphasize the importance of having a positive impact in society beyond the playing field. In the minor leagues, our players take part in all kinds of activities, including school reading programs, hospital visits, working with disabled youth and youth baseball clinics. These experiences help our players understand responsibility, compassion and giving back. Ultimately it helps them mature and grow as people.”

Here is a little bit more on each of the winners.

LOGAN DARNELL

It was an exciting year for the left-hander whom the Twins drafted in the sixth round in 2010 out of the University of Kentucky. Following the 2013 season, the Twins added him to their 40 man roster. He went to big league camp in February before heading to Rochester to start the season.

On May 2, Logan Darnell was promoted to the Minnesota Twins and four days later he made his debut with three perfect innings out of the bullpen. It was his lone appearance during his two-week stint with the Twins before heading back to Rochester where he remained until he was a September call-up.

With the Red Wings, he went 7-6 with a 3.60 ERA. However, he also was important to the community of Rochester which is why he was the winner of the award.

Recently Logan Darnell told Twins Daily, “It’s a great honor to get (the Killebrew Award). After baseball, it’s things like this that I’ll remember more than any athletic awards.”

Minor league players are encouraged to participate in various activities in the community during their seasons.

Darnell said that he “did a lot of camps, and whatever they asked us to do.”

However, he certainly had a project that he was very proud of supporting. “My favorite was working with an organization called Mary Cariola which is a school for kids that were born with disabilities. It is a great thing they do at that school. It makes you realize that sports aren’t everything, and you can make their day just by showing up.”

(Learn more about the Mary Cariola Children’s Center on their website or on Twitter.)

TONY THOMAS

28-year-old Tony Thomas signed a minor league contract with the Twins shortly before spring training. He was the Cubs third round pick in 2007 and stayed with them through the 2010 season. He spent 2011 through 2013 with the Red Sox organization where he primarily played for AAA Pawtucket.

He was sent to AA New Britain where he was an Eastern League All-Star in 2014. He did a little bit of everything for the Rock Cats. He played 53 games at second base, 33 games at shortstop and three games at third base. He also played 27 games in left field and 12 games in right field. At the plate, he hit .241/.302/.411 (.712) with 29 doubles, six triples and 12 home runs.

Thomas was quite active in various community activities in New Britain. He said, “I have been to the Children’s Hospital. I have done a few baseball camps and clinics in our stadium and offsite, going to Little Leagues. Also, I went to the public library to read to kids.”

Though Thomas was new to the Twins organization and never met Killebrew, he understands fully the meaning of this award. “To win any award named after a Hall of Famer is an honor in itself. To win one named after Harmon Killebrew in the Twins organization is unbelievable. The man took pride in what he did, and it showed in his performance on and off the field. It makes me proud to be in the Minnesota Twins organization.”

TIM SHIBUYA

Tim Shibuya was the Twins 23rd round pick in 2011. He began this season in Ft. Myers where he went 7-4 with a 3.64 ERA. He made 28 appearances, including 10 starts. He was willing to pitch in a variety of roles for Doug Mientkiewicz’s Miracle staff. His season ended prematurely with an arm injury, but his work in the community continued.

The Miracle have an event every year that players really enjoy. They host an annual special needs camp. Shibuya noted, “The entire Miracle team worked a special needs camp with the Dave Clark Foundation. About 30 kids came out for this camp and we were all blown away by the kids and their families. It was a great experience, one none of us will forget about anytime soon. ”

Shibuya involved himself in other functions as well. “I was lucky enough to be able to visit Buckingham Exceptional Student Center and spend time with students with moderate-to-severe disabilities. We played T-ball with them, and it was so inspiring to see their excitement being outside and enjoying baseball. Some students struggled sitting up on their own power so we laid down in the grass or in their classrooms and hung out with them and enjoyed being in their company. ”

Shibuya is not one to take his job for granted and understands his role in positively effecting young kids lives. “I spoke with a few foster kids and their legal guardians and showed them around our temporary home of Jet Blue Park. Hearing their stories and understanding their situation makes you realize how special of a job we have. The strength and maturity of these kids is amazing considering how much they have gone through.”

Though Shibuya never had the chance to meet Killebrew, he is honored to win this award. “To win an award like this is a great honor, especially when it is named after someone like Mr. Killebrew. There is a reason the community award is named after such a legendary figure. When you hear his name you think about humility, class, professionalism and character.”

TANNER VAVRA

Tanner Vavra was the Twins 30th round pick in 2013 out of Valparaiso University. He starred in the Northwoods League during his collegiate years as well. With Cedar Rapids this year, he played in 81 games and hit .258/.345/.326 (.671) with 16 extra base hits.

Vavra is a baseball guy from a baseball family. His father, Joe, is the Twins third base coach. His brother, Trey, was a Twins draft choice in 2014 and one of the better hitters for Elizabethton this year. Vavra knows baseball, but he also understands the role of being involved in the community and embraced that in Cedar Rapids.

Vavra noted, “I try to do anything and everything I can in the community. Here in Cedar Rapids, they do a great job of helping out and getting in the community. I was happy to have the opportunity to get out and volunteer.”

Though Vavra isn’t certain if he ever met Killebrew, he knows about his greatness. “I have heard his countless stories and attitude toward this great game of baseball and how he gave back to the communities around the country.”

He continued, “It’s an honor to have received this award, and a privilege to have given back to the Cedar Rapids community.”

-----

One thing you would learn if you follow the Minnesota Twins organization from the big league level to rookie ball is that there are a lot of really good people, a lot of guys that are very happy to volunteer in the community.

Darnell said, “There are a lot of guys on the Rochester team that went out and helped too. (It was a) great group of guys there that care for the community. There are a lot of guys with a gift of serving others and guys that like to have fun!”

Congratulations to Logan Darnell, Tony Thomas, Tim Shibuya and Tanner Vavra, the deserving 2014 Killebrew Award winners for community service.


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5 Comments

This article made me feel good.  It's great to hear that Twins' prospects are so active in helping their communities.  

    • DAM DC Twins Fans and James like this

There's too much negative in the world and around the 4-straight bad seasons with the Twins. I think it's good to remember that these are all people and the overwhelming majority are really, really good people. These are four examples, but there are many.

    • glunn and DAM DC Twins Fans like this
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Twins Notes
Sep 16 2014 12:46 PM

Seth, I agree with you and I understand the fans frustration with the losses but some of the negativity that I have heard this season is almost surprising.  Great job in pointing out the good that guys in this organization.  You guys always do a good job of highlighting the brighter points and trying to not dwell on the negative.  One of many reasons why I'm at your site each day.

    • glunn likes this

Thank you for that comment. It's good to hear. It's hard to ignore the frustration that another 90+ loss season brings, but it'd just be silly not to acknowledge that there is also a lot of good happening on and off the field as well.

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Twins Notes
Sep 18 2014 12:32 PM

Yeah it's almost like they WANT to see the problems at the major league level but don't WANT to see the promise or future coming up through the minors.  Keep opening the eyes guys, that's my thought process.


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