(Wikimedia photo)

Legion awards Colorado Rockies player

Colorado Rockies first baseman and outfielder Michael Cuddyer was instrumental in helping American Legion Baseball Post 280 in Chesapeake, Va., earn a spot in the 1995 Virginia state tournament championship game. Post 280 honored Cuddyer for his efforts with the Sportsmanship Trophy. Now, 18 years later, he is honored as the Legion’s 2014 Graduate of the Year for his character, leadership, playing abilities and community service.

"I have been the athletic officer of Post 280 for the past 20 years and of all the baseball players I had the pleasure of knowing over those years, I would rank Michael Cuddyer as the player whose character I most admire," said Joseph Evans, judge advocate for Post 280. "Cuddyer was well mannered, humble and always showed respect for authority, to his teammates and his elders. His positive attitude and leadership qualities were apparent at all times on the field."

Cuddyer was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the first round (ninth pick) of the 1997 amateur draft. He made his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut in September 2001 after achieving a .301 batting average, hitting 30 home runs and scoring 87 RBIs in 141 games with the New Britain Rock Cats – the Double-A minor league affiliate of the Twins. Ten years later on Dec. 16, 2011, Cuddyer signed with the Colorado Rockies.

The right-hander has several awards behind his name. He was named Virginia’s Player of the Year and Gatorade’s National Baseball Player of the Year in 1997; he’s a two-time MLB All-Star recipient; and he won the National League’s Batting Champion Award in 2013 for having a .331 batting average.

"As a former major league player myself, I couldn’t think of a more deserving young man than Michael," said Gary Lavelle, who played for the San Francisco Giants and the Toronto Blue Jays. "I have known Michael for many years and coached him as a young man. He has always epitomized what hard work and effort will do for a player."

Cuddyer’s honorable character is also seen off the field with his charitable efforts. During his time in Minnesota with the Twins, Cuddyer and his wife, Claudia, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for organizations that support youth, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. And since arriving in Colorado two years ago, he and his wife started a program that provides school supplies for kids. He also purchased a suite at Coors Field – home to the Colorado Rockies – to host underprivledged families. He, too, supports Post 280’s baseball program by providing autographed baseballs for the post to auction off during fundraising events, and he supports his former high school’s baseball program by supplying equipment and uniforms.