(Busch Stadium) Just a few days ago, St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong enjoyed his first All-Star experience and now he has another honor to add to his resume–Heart and Hustle Award winner.
“Definitely, just to be able to be recognized by guys that have played this game and know what it takes on a daily basis,” said DeJong of how special the award is. “Extremely grateful to receive this award on this team. I know I prepare and play to win every day, so it feels right.”
The Heart and Hustle Award honors active players who “demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game” according to the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA), which votes on the award. The MLBPAA formed 30 committees, comprised of Alumni players with established relationships to each team to cast their ballot.
Even before he was called up to the big leagues, DeJong was taking advantage of the Cardinals alumni that are present in the organization, seeking out advice from the likes of Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Jose Oquendo, and others.
“Little tidbits here and there–mostly about the mental game,” DeJong said. “Kind of just your attitude. I feel like a lot of times your mental space will take you to what shows on the field. When you’re in the box thinking too much or your kind of in between, it will show. When you’re in the box with a clear head and that attitude of ‘I want to damage’ type thing, that’s when your at your best and your physical comes out best.”
The very first Heart and Hustle Award was presented in 2005 and the winner was then St. Louis Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein.
“Yeah, it was definitely an honor when I received that award,” said Eckstein, who is now a special assistant in baseball operations with the Pittsburgh Pirates. “As it’s grown, it identifies each player on each club that goes out there and kind plays the game I think all the fans like to watch. What we’re seeing in today’s game, it’s fun to see that award grow.”
“He goes out there and plays the game the right way,” Eckstein complimented. “It’s kind of funny, when he came up I don’t know if people thought they were going to see what they saw, especially on the offensive side of the ball. He’s kind of stepped in when they had other people and ended up taking over the job. He’s done a fantastic job for them and was able to be an All-Star this year. He’s really solidified at shortstop here.”
The final Heart and Hustle Award winner will be announced on November 7, 2019 at the 20th Annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York City. This event is the primary fundraiser for the series of free Legends for Youth Baseball Clinics. These clinics impact more than 19,000 children each year at 185 clinics, allowing them the unique opportunity to interact with and learn from players who have left a lasting impact on the game of baseball.
photo credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports