What is the Heart & Hustle Award?
This esteemed award honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game. The Heart and Hustle Award is also the only award in Major League Baseball that is voted on by former players. Voting is conducted prior to the All-Star break.
It was established in 2005, presumably to award players like David Eckstein, who would not ordinarily rise to the level of MVP voting or maybe even All-Star status, but whose heart and hustle on the field were worthy of recognition. David Eckstein won the very first Heart & Hustle Award and was an All-Star that year, so if you want to call this, unofficially, the David Eckstein Award, you’d be within reason to do so.
The entire point of the Heart & Hustle Award is that it recognizes the players who play for the love of the game above all else, so “winning it” is merely the game’s way — specifically, alumni players from each team — of recognizing their on the field zeal.
That means a group of former Giants voted for Pablo Sandoval. Now Sandoval will go up against the winners from the 29 other teams to be named the Heart & Hustle Award overall winner. That list looks like this:
2005: David Eckstein
2006: Craig Biggio
2007: Craig Biggio
2008: Grady Sizemore
2009: Albert Pujols
2010: Roy Halladay
2011: Torii Hunter
2012: Mike Trout
2013: Dustin Pedroia
2014: Josh Harrison
2015: Anthony Rizzo
2016: Todd Frazier
2017: Brett Gardner
2018: Mookie Betts
If you think this award sounds an awful lot like the Willie Mac Award, I’d agree. They’re virtually identical in terms of intention, but this award is voted on just by team alumni rather than by players, coaches, training staff, and fans and takes place during the first half of the season. I’m reminding you of all this to explain this list of Giants winners over the years:
So, Pablo picks up his second win and snaps Crawford’s four-year winning streak. We know the alumni voters don’t fixate on performance, either — Andres Torres’ first half in 2011 was well below his 2010 rate outputs — so, Pablo’s status as the best hitter on the team up until this month wasn’t the sole factor.
Maybe it’s his “always on” energy and willingness to do anything on the field. He pitched a scoreless inning in relief in last year’s first half, but Brandon Crawford was having an All-Star hitting run, so, maybe on field performance does serve as the potential tiebreaker.
Whatever the criteria, it sure would be nice if Baseball or the MLBPA used this opportunity and these players to illustrate for the younger fans just what it means to play with heart and hustle. Will we see ads or video packages distilling the essence of each team winner or will kids be expected to just take the players’ word for it that these guys have heart and hustle?
If you’re wondering, heart and hustle are not the same thing as “playing the game the right way.” Another way to say “heart and hustle” is “joy and endless effort.” Pablo Sandoval plays baseball with joy and endless effort. Sometimes, baseball can be impossible. For those moments, you need some “love of the game” energy to survive the impossible. Pablo Sandoval has definitely helped us in those times.