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Harmon Killebrew Award for Community Service - 2015

All week here at Twins Daily, we have handed out awards for on-field performance. Today, we recognize Twins minor leaguers for their work off the field.

Following the death of Minnesota Twins legend and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, the organization announced initiated the Harmon Killebrew Award for Community Service. One player from each Twins minor league affiliate is recognized for their efforts in the community.

Killebrew was a powerful man and an intimidating presence on the baseball field. However, he was known as a genuinely compassionate man, respectful and helpful.
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs (Top L to R: Logan Darnell, Tim Shibuya; Bottom L to R: Tanner Vavra, Jared Wilson)
Twins Daily would like to congratulate the 2015 Harmon Killebrew Award for Community Service winners:
  • Rochester Red Wings – Logan Darnell
  • Chattanooga Lookouts – Tim Shibuya
  • Ft. Myers Miracle – Tanner Vavra
  • Cedar Rapids Kernels – Jared Wilson
Here is a little bit more on each of them.


LOGAN DARNELL - Rochester Red Wings

Darnell is a repeat winner for the Rochester Red Wings. A year ago, he wrote about work he had done with the Mary Cariola Children’s Center, a school for kids born with disabilities. He continued to do a lot of work in Rochester during the 2015 season as well.

Darnell said, “It’s a privilege to be recognized with the award. Knowing all the other great teammates that I have, to be picked is an honor.”

Red Wings GM Dan Mason raved about what Darnell has meant to the team and the city the last couple of years. “Logan’s humble and outgoing demeanor have endeared him to so many people in our community. There are a ton of reasons why he won this award again. He led our team in appearances in the community once again this year. Basically, when we have requests from schools, corporations, hospitals, charities, little leagues, we have a flyer in the clubhouse and ask for volunteers. Logan probably averaged two to three appearances per home stand. He did them because he enjoyed dealing with people and he knows and understands the kind of impact he can have on people as a professional baseball player. He really gets it. We were blessed to have many, many guys on our team this season who were first class and did a lot of appearances as well, but he did more than anyone.”

The highlight event was one that Darnell himself sponsored. Here is Mason’s take on the event.

“In April, Logan approached me and told me he wanted to sponsor a jersey auction night to raise money and awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association. He explained that he wanted to do something to honor his mom, and he wanted to use his current position in life as a professional baseball player to make a difference. He explained that his Dad and brother take care of his Mom and that because he’s on the road, he wanted to do something to give back. He said he wanted to sponsor the jersey for the local chapter. He also said that only one or two other players on our team were aware that his mom suffered from the disease, but that he was ready to let the world know so he could do his part to help others fight the disease. Our next step was to meet with the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, and it was quite honestly one of the more powerful meetings I’ve ever been a part of. He had a chance to meet the people from the local chapter and talk about what his family was going through and together we concocted a plan to raise some money and awareness. Logan then went to work. He designed the jerseys himself and bought purple stirrups for every player to wear as well that night. I called Gene Glynn who sent me 15-20 autographed items from members of the Twins which we auctioned off that night as well. We auctioned off the game-worn signed jerseys of each player. Bryan Donaldson of the Twins also helped by sending several authentic items for the auction. We ended up raising over $7000.”

In a classy showing, the Red Wings flew Logan’s Dad and brother in for the game so they could be here and throw out a first pitch. Mason explained, “They spent the majority of the game mingling with our fans, many of whom told them of how Logan had impacted them over the course of his two-plus seasons with the Wings. It was the first time we’ve ever had a player sponsor a promotion and the event received a great deal of publicity for the Alzheimer’s Association.”

It was a day that meant a lot to Darnell. He said, “The Alzheimer’s Day was awesome. Words can’t describe it. Having an idea and something that means a lot to me come together like it did was amazing. With the help of my teammates, the Red Wings, and guys in Minnesota at the time, helped raise around $7500 for that chapter!”

Mason called it “a shining example of why Logan is a special person and extremely worthy of the Harmon Killebrew Award.”


TIM SHIBUYA - Chattanooga Lookouts

Tim Shibuya was the Twins 23rd round pick in 2011. When healthy, he has been a very productive pitcher. In 2015, he was healthy throughout the full season. He began with the Miracle, moved up to Chattanooga for a couple of months and then finished the season with a month with the Red Wings.

Shibuya said, “The 2015 season was a productive year. It was nice to be able to move up and compete t a higher level and learn from some of the older guys. To be able to clinch a playoff spot was special. The best part of the year is being able to go to the field every day and be around the team.”

In 2014, Shibuya was the Ft. Myers Miracle choice for the Killebrew Award for, among many other things, his work and time spent at the Buckingham Exceptional Student Center.

This year, he continued his excellent work in the community and is the choice as the recipient for the Chattanooga Lookouts.

“It’s an honor, especially considering how many other teammates are deserving of the award. I am lucky to be surrounded with such good people, from teammates, to coaches, and front office staff. It is just as special as last year. I am glad to have the opportunity to do work in the communities year after year.”

Last offseason Shibuya spent his time in Ft. Myers kept himself busy. “I volunteered at the Lee County Animal Shelter. I worked a variety of baseball camps and even gave a speech at a high school banquet. I visited some of the local elementary schools and hospitals.”

One event stood out for Shibuya this past season.

“By far the most special moment was when I visited with a boy in Chattanooga with leukemia. He was the most positive and happy kid and his family and friends were an amazing support system. In late May, he could not get out of bed due to the treatment, but his attitude was amazing. And a couple months later, with his doctor's approval, he threw the ceremonial first pitch. The strength of kids never ceases to amaze me.”

Shibuya represents the Minnesota Twins organization well. His attitude is simply, “If something pops up, I will try to help out at the event.”


TANNER VAVRA - Ft. Myers Miracle

Tanner Vavra was the Twins 30th round pick in 2013 out of Valparaiso University. He was the Killebrew Award winner for the Cedar Rapids Kernels in 2014. This year, he was the choice for the Ft. Myers Miracle.

Ashley Adams, the Miracle’s Manager of Community Relations, said, “What made Tanner stand out among others was that he genuinely enjoyed volunteering his time this past season. That was the biggest thing I noticed. He got really interactive with the kids wherever we were. It was cool because at their ages, they sometimes don’t comprehend what he’s talking about, but love to interact! Tanner was really cool about talking about experiences he had or currently has in professional baseball. They would really get into it and ask a lot of questions.”
Vavra is honored to receive the award for a second straight season. “It means a great deal. I try to give back to the community I am playing in as much as possible, and being recognized with an award like this is an honor.”

He finds it very rewarding. “Volunteering in Ft. Myers was a lot different than Cedar Rapids, but it was equally rewarding. In Ft. Myers, we went to different schools, hospitals, and special needs facilities to speak to kids about various things.”

In 85 games with the Miracle, Vavra hit .258/.346/.300 (.646). Solid numbers, but consider that he began the season by getting just one hit in 26 at bats (.038) through the season’s first month. However, at that point, he turned things around. Over his final 72 games played, he hit .285/.368/.332 (.700) with all nine of his extra base hits.

“The FSL is known to be a tough league for hitters. Regardless, my start was extremely frustrating. After a few hitless games, I began to press too much and forgot about the process and began only to worry about the results. Once I settled down some and got back to what I was doing in spring training, I began to feel more comfortable. Once the second half started, I finally understood how to handle my role, and then I started to get some results. Then I began to play some more and I felt like it took off a little bit for me. I think playing more and more and knowing I was probably going to be in the lineup that day helped me get into a rhythm. Very happy with my second half and overall our team’s success finishing with the best record on our side is something to be proud of regardless of whether or not we made the playoffs.”

Vavra will head to Australia soon where he will team with his brother, Trey, to play for Melbourne in the Australian Baseball League. Not only that, the brothers will play for their father, Twins bench coach Joe Vavra.

“Australia is going to happen and I as well as my family are looking forward to it. It will be a great opportunity not only to play with my brother again and for my father to manage us, but also to learn from my dad and pay attention to the coaching/managing side of things.”


JARED WILSON - Cedar Rapids Kernels

The Twins really liked Wilson, enough that they drafted him after his junior season of college in 2012 and in the 19th round following his senior season in 2013. After pitching out of the bullpen most of 2013 and 2014, he began the 2015 season in the Kernels starting rotation. He made 12 starts for Cedar Rapids and a spot start in Ft. Myers. He was a Midwest League All-Star, and then he was moved back to the bullpen in the Kernels second half. He was also recently named the Kernels recipient of the Harmon Killebrew Award.

Of the award, he said, “It’s an incredible honor to receive the Harmon Killebrew Award. Not only was he a Hall of Fame talent on the field, but a role model for all off the field. He's a legend in the Twins organization, not just for his incredible talent, but for his attentiveness and care towards others and I couldn't think of a higher honor than to be associated with his name. The fact that people never fail to mention his character and greatness as a person, as opposed to focusing strictly on his playing career, is a true testament to how special of a man he was.”

According to Ryne George, the Kernels Community Relations Manager, “The first thing I noticed about Jared was his maturity as a baseball player on and off the field. Jared understood right away that kids in the Cedar Rapids community look up to Kernels players and Jared embraced that role without hesitation. Jared was my number one guy in the clubhouse I could approach if I needed a player for an appearance on short notice. Having somebody like that in the clubhouse is huge because then he can encourage other players to go out in the community more.”

Wilson enjoyed the opportunity to get out in the community. “We are given a lot of opportunities through the Kernels to help out in the Cedar Rapids communities. We are given opportunities to help out at some of the local schools and their reading programs, which is my personal favorite, along with other events in the community such at the farmers' markets and street fairs. This year, we were also given the opportunity to help out with some of the youth teams in the area, and participate in a summer camp outing for children with hemophilia. It's a really good program that we have here and everyone takes a part in it. I'm very lucky to have had the opportunity to play for the Kernels. It's a great organization to be a part of, and a top notch Minor League affiliate. The people of Cedar Rapids are great and I can't thank my host family, Linda and LeRoy Mann, enough for all they have provided me throughout my time here.”

George continued, “Jared also has a great sense of humor and was more than happy to co-star as a catcher in a Minion video put together to help promote Minion Night at the ballpark.” (Chris Mazza and Randy LeBlanc are also in the video.)



George comments that in the last 12 months, they have scheduled over 150 community appearances with their mascot, Mr. Shucks, and just over 50 player appearances. He says, “Supporting the Cedar Rapids community isn’t restricted to just the Community Relations Manager. Different Kernels front office staff have helped out with programs that support military veterans, provide baseball equipment to kids who can’t afford to play and national programs like Junior Achievement and Big Brothers Big Sisters.”

-----

One thing I have learned from following 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.

The four recipients of the 2015 Harmon Killebrew Award for Community Service exemplify what it means to be part of their communities and giving back.

Congratulations to Logan Darnell, Tim Shibuya, Tanner Vavra, and Jared Wilson, the 2015 Killebrew Award winners for community service.


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1 Comments

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Halsey Hall
Sep 17 2015 09:06 AM

Congratulations to those guys, all well deserving. 


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