Just as we all expected, outfielder Mike Yastrzemski was named the 2020 Willie Mac Award winner. The San Francisco Giants announced the award on Saturday evening, prior to their game against the San Diego Padres.
The Willie Mac Award is given every year to the Giant who most embodies the spirit of the incomparable Willie McCovey, and is voted on by teammates, coaching staff, and fans.
Yastrzemski felt like the obvious choice and he was, indeed, the winner.
Yastrzemski burst on the scene in 2019 after the Giants traded for him, and made his MLB debut as a 28-year old. He caught fire, and the assumption was that he’d be a prime regression candidate, with the 2020 season starting exactly a month before his 30th birthday.
Instead, the left-hander did the opposite. Rather than going down he went up, having a sophomore campaign that made his rookie year look cute by comparison.
He was at or near the front of the NL MVP race for the first half of the season, and would be an unquestioned All-Star starter were there an All-Star Game this year.
But just as importantly, Yastrzemski established himself as a leader of the team, with seemingly every veteran on the squad praising the character he shows in the clubhouse and dugout, and the work ethic on display behind the scenes.
In a season that will be remembered more for what happened in the world than on the field, Yastrzemski was also a leader for the organization. He was vocal in his support of the Black Lives Matter movement, knelt for the national anthem all year long as a protest against systemic oppression and racial injustice, and was often the first Giant to speak on civil and social issues.
He was a favorite among media members for his openness in good times and bad, and on easy and hard subjects alike.
In a video message displayed during the ceremony, Buster Posey said that McCovey — who died two years ago — would have been happy that Yastrzemski won.
In a video message to #SFGiants Willie Mac Award winner Mike Yastrzemski, Buster Posey said, "I know the namesake of the award would be happy with you winning it."— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) September 27, 2020
Buster Posey in a recorded message to fellow Willie Mac winner Mike Yastrzemski: "I can't wait to be out there with you next year."— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) September 27, 2020
Congratulations to Yastrzemski on an honor that feels very fitting for the year he had, the player he is, and the person he is.