San Jose, Calif. - Two former and two current San Jose State University baseball players were honored for their performance during their respective 2009 seasons at the 26th Annual Santa Clara County Hot Stove Banquet at the San Jose Elks Club on Tuesday, January 26.
Kyle Bellows was selected as the College Player of the Year, David Berner as College Co-Pitcher of the Year, Zack Jones as High School Player of the Year, and Anthony Bona as the Spartans' recipient of the Loyd Christopher Award. The event annually salutes athletes from high school to Major League Baseball who have played in Santa Clara County.
Bellows, out of San Jose's Santa Teresa High School, hit .389 (93-for-239) while starting all 59 games he played as a junior for the Spartans last spring. The shortstop produced 62 runs, 16 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs, 57 RBI and 10 steals while leading the Spartans to their first Western Athletic Conference crown since 2000, earning All-WAC first team recognition.
Bellows went on to gain fourth-round selection by the Cleveland Indians during the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in June. He belted a team-best seven home runs, tied for fifth-most in the league, but had his first professional campaign ended prematurely by injury. His Class A Short-Season Mahoning Valley Scrappers of Niles, Ohio, took the Pinckney Division Championship of the New York-Penn League with a franchise-record 49 wins in the regular season, before dropping the NYPL Championship Series to the Staten Island Yankees.
Berner is a native of Santa Clara, Calif., and graduate of Santa Clara High School who also attended West Valley College prior to two standout seasons as a Spartan. He shared College Pitcher of the Year distinction with former Stanford star Drew Storen, the 10th overall pick by the Washington Nationals who is now already at the Double-A level of pro baseball. Berner himself was a 14th-round draft choice of the Houston Astros. His first season in the pro ranks for the Class A Short-Season Tri-City ValleyCats of Troy, N.Y., and the New York-Penn League, was cut short by arm trouble after seven outings.
As a senior for the Spartans in 2009, the left-handed ace went 7-2 with a WAC-best 3.20 ERA. He put together an opening-day shutout as part of a team-high three complete games among his 13 appearances, all starts. Berner struck out 84 and walked just 15 over 95.2 innings.
The Loyd Christopher Award is given each year to one member of the San Jose State, Stanford and Santa Clara programs. Bona, a freshman walk-on in 2009 out of Union City, Calif., and James Logan High School, batted .343 (37-for-108) with 22 runs, six doubles, 28 RBI, 15 walks and four sacrifice flies over 38 games played as a first baseman, designated hitter and pinch-hitter. The Academic All-WAC honoree drew 31 starts.
The award is named for the late Loyd Christopher, who spent much of his career as a scout after a long stint as a professional baseball player. A $500.00 scholarship grant is given to the college player nominated by his coaches. Junior centerfielder Jason Martin and former Spartans Brian Yocke, Justin Santich-Hughes (twice), Kevin Frandsen and Nick Epidendio have been other recent San Jose State honorees.
Jones, a San Jose native and a Santa Teresa High School graduate like Bellows, excelled both as a right-handed pitcher and shortstop for the Saints. As a senior, he went 14-0 with a miniscule 0.88 ERA on the mound while batting .508 with 13 doubles and eight home runs and being named Mercury News Player of the Year. An all-state honoree, Jones was chosen in the 24th round of the First-Year Player Draft by the Kansas City Royals.
The Santa Clara County Hot Stove Corp. Committee's mission states that its commitment to the baseball community of Santa Clara County is to provide an opportunity for the baseball coaches and players to participate at the highest level and ensure recognition for their efforts. The annual banquet is the event at which the committee recognizes and honors the accomplishments of deserving participants within the community. Funds collected through the banquet go directly to youth, high school, amateur and collegiate baseball programs within Santa Clara County.
A cocktail hour was followed by dinner. The master of ceremonies for the third year in a row was broadcaster Ted Robinson, the radio voice of the San Francisco 49ers. The program began with 2010 season previews with representatives of the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics organizations, Piraro, Santa Clara head coach Mark O'Brien and Stanford head coach Mark Marquess. It continued with the announcement of a total of 21 awards. The event marked the conclusion of a long day of speaking engagements for the South Bay's collegiate head-coaching trio, with the Northern California segment of College Baseball Media Day that same morning.
The banquet was again attended by Piraro's entire staff of associate head coach Tom Kunis, assistant coach Jeff Pritchard, volunteer assistant coach Brian Yocke and coordinator of operations Jason Piraro, as well as Bellows, Berner, Bona, Jones, Martin and several other San Jose State affiliates.
The uniform official start date of practice for all NCAA Division I baseball programs across the country is this Friday, January 29, exactly three weeks ahead of San Jose State's 2010 season opener on Friday, February 19, at Saint Mary's College. The three-game non-conference series begins with a 2:00 p.m. first pitch at Louis Guisto Field in Moraga, Calif. The Spartans are set to begin spring practice on Wednesday, February 3, at Blethen Field on South Campus.
San Jose State Baseball season tickets encompassing 30 home games over 27 dates, are now available for purchase for just $100 by calling (408) 924-SJTX, or by visiting the Spartan Ticket Office at 1393 South Seventh Street.