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Rodney named Rays' MVP at team luncheon

Rodney named Rays' MVP at team luncheon

Rodney named Rays' MVP at team luncheon
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays closer Fernando Rodney had been practicing his archery skills all season, pretending to launch an arrow into the sky each time he finished off a Tampa Bay win.

Rodney probably never imagined that end of the season awards would be in his sight, but he claimed the Rays' Most Valuable Player Award at a team luncheon on Tuesday.

"I know it's probably a difficult choice to make, but Fernando right now is on the verge of having the best year of any relief pitcher in history, statistically speaking," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

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The Tampa Bay Chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America voted and recognized Rodney for his accomplishments that saw him earn a team-record 47 saves and a 0.61 ERA entering Tuesday, currently the lowest mark in Major League history for relievers with more than 50 appearances.

"Team MVP for me, I've never had it," Rodney said. "I think the most important is MVP. I think I put up the numbers, and they gave me the MVP."

Past winners of the club's MVP award, which was presented by Chapter Chairman Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, include pitcher James Shields, outfielder Carl Crawford and utility man Ben Zobrist.

The ceremony, which was emceed by Rays radio broadcasters Andy Freed and Dave Wills, was hosted by the Clutch Hitters of Tampa Bay. The organization, which is comprised of business leaders in the Tampa Bay community, also presented a $12,500 gift to the Rays Baseball Foundation to help the community.

Other players were recognized for their achievements on the field, including lefty Matt Moore, who earned the Outstanding Rookie Award, joining the likes of Jeremy Hellickson, Evan Longoria and Shields as past recipients of the award.

Righty Chris Archer and outfielder Todd Glaesmann were named the organization's top Minor League Pitcher and Player, respectively.

But off the field, Shields was recognized for his contributions. He was named the Paul C. Smith Champion Award, given to the player who "best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field."

The award was presented in memory of Smith, a Rays beat reporter for MLB.com, who passed away in 2005.

The Clutch Hitters of Tampa Bay also presented the Clutch Hitter Award to Bob Stewart and Rick Dodge for their contributions to bring a Major League Baseball franchise to the area.

Tuesday's festivities concluded with the Clutch Hitters presenting the Children's Dream Fund a $5,000 gift in memory of Ben Topkin, Marc Topkin's son, who passed away during the season.

Julianna Zobrist, Ben's wife, wrapped the day up by singing "Take Me out to the Ballgame" to the crowd of 420 people.

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