LSU’s Dylan Crews won the 45th Golden Spikes Award, presented by USA Baseball, ahead of Game 2 of the 2023 Men’s College World Series finals on Sunday, June 25. Crews is the second LSU Tiger to win the award, joining pitcher Ben McDonald’s 1989 win.
Texas’ Ivan Melendez won the 44th Golden Spikes Award in 2022, becoming the first Longhorn to win the award. Arkansas’ Kevin Kopps became the second Razorback to win the illustrious award in 2021. Oregon State’s Adley Rutschman ended his illustrious college career as the winner of the 42nd Golden Spikes Award. The announcement was made June 14 at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha at the MLB in Omaha game between the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers.
Rutschman joined 2018 winner Andrew Vaughn (California), Navy’s Noah Song and Vanderbilt’s JJ Bleday as the finalists for the 2019 award. The award has gone to amateur baseball players ever since Division I college baseball’s Bob Horner took home the first honors in 1978 as a member of the Arizona State Sun Devils. So, what is it that makes the Golden Spikes Award so special?
THE GOLDEN SPIKES AWARD: What is it?
The Golden Spikes Award isn’t simply an award for Division I college baseball players, although that’s how it has turned out a majority of the time. USA Baseball in conjunction with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation awards the Golden Spikes to the student-athlete who combines his skills on the field with his sportsmanship the best.
That includes baseball players from every level including high school, NAIA, and junior colleges as well as all divisions of NCAA play. Just twice in the 41-year history of the award has the honor not gone to a DI baseball player: Alex Fernandez out of Miami Dade Community College (1990) and Bryce Harper out of Southern Nevada in 2010.
The award itself looks exactly how you would imagine it. Gold is molded into a pair of the baseball player’s footwear but it’s changed a bit over the years. Once surrounded by crystal that appears to be in the shape of a baseball, it was mounted atop a base that lists the year and winner’s name. Now the golden spikes rest one atop the other laying in front of a baseball field and resting atop a base with past winners names etched on it. The gold certainly helps add a little shine to any trophy case.
The big mystery is where the name Golden Spikes originated. We talked to the people at USA Baseball and there seems to be no record of how the illustrious award earned its name. An internet search didn’t provide any further insight. We’re going to keep looking to track down where the name came from.
THE GOLDEN SPIKES AWARD: How it works
The process has changed a bit over the years but has remained the same in concept. A preseason watch list gets narrowed down throughout the season until a winner is decided. But let’s take a look at how we get there.
USA Baseball trims a list of more than 100 candidates to 55, opening the college baseball season with its preseason watch list. That list will remain for more than two months, until the 40-player midseason watch list is released, which was announced April 10 this season. Beginning in 2007, USA Baseball added the 25-man semifinalist list, which was released on May 15 of the 2019 season. For the second consecutive season, the semifinalist release was a historic one. Last season, Delta State’s Zack Shannon was the first Division II baseball player to make the semifinals cut, and this season high school standout Bobby Witt, Jr. is the first non-collegiate athlete to make the top 25.
Now comes the fun part. A group of more than 200 voters — consisting of the Golden Spikes Advisory Board, national baseball media, USA Baseball staff members, former Golden Spikes winners, and more — begins the voting process. But they aren’t alone. Fans can vote up to 25 times a day until Sunday, May 26, contributing to 5 percent of the total vote.
Next come the finalists. Once they are announced, the same voting body and fan voting process open once again.
THE GOLDEN SPIKES AWARD: History of past winners
Arizona State’s Bob Horner was the first to take home the Golden Spikes Award in 1978 in a season that saw him not only become the first overall pick in the MLB draft but go right to the big leagues and win the 1978 National League Rookie of the Year for the Atlanta Braves. Here’s some food for thought. Horner was equally impressive in 1977 when he took home College World Series Most Outstanding Player honors. Had there been a Golden Spikes then, we may have had a back-to-back winner.
HORNER’S LEGACY: Take a look at Arizona State’s all-time starting lineup
California’s Andrew Vaughn was the 2018 winner and had a season worthy of becoming the first repeat recipient, but alas, we still await to see if anyone will go back-to-back. Here are more notable facts from the history of the award:
- Fourteen of the recipients have been full-time pitchers, while Brendan McKay (2017, Louisville) and A.J. Reed (2015, Kentucky) stood out as pitchers and hitters. Eight winners have been outfielders. Sixteen have been infielders and four more catchers. Then there was Bryce Harper, who played infield, outfield, and catcher.
- Five Golden Spikes winners have been the Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year through 2022. Horner was the first and is joined by Harper, Kris Bryant, Jason Jennings and Buster Posey. Three have won the MVP award (Bryant, Harper, and Posey), while eight have won World Series titles and 18 have made MLB All Star Game appearances through 2022.
- Eight have gone on to become MLB first overall picks through 2022. Horner was the first in 1978, followed by Ben McDonald (1989), Phil Nevin (1992), Pat Burrell (1998), David Price (2007), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Harper (2010) and now Rutschman in 2019.
- Twenty of the Golden Spikes Award winners have also won the Dick Howser Award presented by the NCBWA as their DI college baseball national player of the year. Melendez accomplished both in 2022.
Below is a list of all of the winners of the 4445Golden Spikes Awards handed out through the 2023 season:
|2020||Season canceled: COVID-19|
|2019||Adley Rutschman||C||Oregon State|
|2013||Kris Bryant||IF||San Diego|
|2010||Bryce Harper||C/OF/IF||Southern Nevada|
|2009||Stephen Strasburg||P||San Diego State|
|2008||Buster Posey||C||Florida State|
|2004||Jered Weaver||P||Long Beach State|
|2001||Mark Prior||P||Southern California|
|2000||Kip Bouknight||P||South Carolina|
|1997||J.D. Drew||OF||Florida State|
|1996||Travis Lee||1B||San Diego State|
|1995||Mark Kotsay||OF||Cal State Fullerton|
|1994||Jason Varitek||C||Georgia Tech|
|1993||Darren Dreifort||P||Wichita State|
|1992||Phil Nevin||3B||Cal State Fullerton|
|1991||Mike Kelly||OF||Arizona State|
|1990||Alex Fernandez||P||Miami Dade CC|
|1988||Robin Ventura||3B||Oklahoma State|
|1986||Mike Loynd||P||Florida State|
|1985||Will Clark||1B||Mississippi State|
|1984||Oddibe McDowell||OF||Arizona State|
|1982||Augie Schmidt||SS||New Orleans|
|1981||Mike Fuentes||OF||Florida State|
|1979||Tim Wallach||1B||Cal State Fullerton|
|1978||Bob Horner||3B||Arizona State|