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Tech's Kirby-Jones semifinalist for prestigious Dick Howser Award

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Tennessee Tech junior A.J. Kirby-Jones is one of three Ohio Valley Conference baseball players who are listed among the 25 semifinalists for the 2010 Dick Howser Trophy, given to the top player in collegiate baseball.

The semifinalists were announced by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA), working in conjunction with the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the College Baseball Foundation.

Joining Kirby-Jones from the OVC players are Murray State senior first baseman Wes Cunningham and Morehead State senior shortstop Drew Lee.

The 25 candidates hail from 13 different conferences and 24 different schools. The OVC, along with the ACC, Big Ten, Conference USA and SEC each led the way with three semifinalists. Nine different positions afield, including five starting pitchers, four first baseman and four third basemen among this diversified group.

The membership of the NCBWA will choose the Dick Howser Trophy based on two rounds of national voting. Three 2010 finalists will be announced just prior to the first game of the College World Series with a press conference slated for Saturday, June 10, at 10 a.m. (CDT) at Rosenblatt Stadium. The winner will be named in a national broadcast from Lubbock, Texas, on Friday, July 2.

The Dick Howser Trophy, given in memory of the former Florida State University All-America shortstop and major league player and manager who died of brain cancer in 1987, is regarded by many as college baseball's most prestigious award.

Criteria for consideration for the trophy include performance on the field, leadership, moral character and courage, qualities that were exemplified by Dick Howser's life.

On the field, Kirby-Jones is batting .383 with a single-season school record 22 home runs, along with 16 doubles and 60 runs batted in. He leads the OVC in home runs and slugging percentage (.851), and is second in on-base percentage (.534).

A Florida native, Howser was twice an All-America shortstop at Florida State University (1957-58), then coached the Seminoles in 1979 after a career as a major league player and coach. After one year in the college ranks, Howser returned to the majors to manage the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals and won the World Series with the Royals in 1985. The baseball stadium on the Florida State campus is named for Howser.

The winner's name is inscribed on the permanent trophy, a bronze bust of Howser displayed at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg -- home of the defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays and the 1999 NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four -- along with several other locations. Both the winner and his school receive a special trophy to keep.

The Howser Trophy was created in 1987, shortly after Howser's death. Previous winners of the Howser Trophy are Mike Fiore, Miami, 1987; Robin Ventura, Oklahoma State, 1988; Scott Bryant, Texas, 1989; Alex Fernandez, Miami-Dade Community College South, 1990; Frank Rodriguez, Howard College (Texas), 1991; Brooks Kieschnick, Texas, 1992 and 1993; Jason Varitek, Georgia Tech, 1994; Todd Helton, Tennessee, 1995; Kris Benson, Clemson, 1996; J. D. Drew, Florida State, 1997; Eddy Furniss, LSU, 1998; Jason Jennings, Baylor, 1999; Mark Teixeira, Georgia Tech, 2000; Mark Prior, P, USC, 2001, Khalil Greene, SS, Clemson, 2002; Rickie Weeks, 2B, Southern U., 2003; Jered Weaver, P, Long Beach State, 2004; Alex Gordon, 3B, Nebraska, 2005; Brad Lincoln, P/DH, Houston, 2006; David Price, P, Vanderbilt, 2007; Buster Posey, C, Florida State, 2008 and Stephen Strasburg, P, San Diego State, 2009.

Howser Trophy semifinalists
Name Pos. School
Daniel Bibona P UC Irvine
Zach Cox 3B Arkansas
C.J. Cron DH Utah
Wes Cunningham 1B Murray St.
Alex Dickerson OF Indiana
Mac Doyle C Wofford
Chris Duffy OF UCF
Yasmani Grandal C Miami (Fla.)
Cole Green P Texas
Ben Heath C Penn St.
Danny Hultzen P Virginia
Paul Hoilman 1B East Tennessee St.
A.J. Kirby-Jones DH Tennessee Tech
Drew Lee SS Morehead St.
Joe Leonard 3B Pittsburgh
Zack MacPhee 2B Arizona St.
Mike McGee UT Florida St.
Anthony Meo P Coastal Carolina
Hunter Morris 1B Auburn
Drew Pomeranz P Mississippi
Anthony Rendon 3B Rice
Jordan Ribera 1B Fresno St.
Chance Ruffin RP Texas
Rob Segedin 3B Tulane
Alex Wimmers P Ohio St.