Matt Duffy had to force his way onto the Giants’ roster out of spring training. Friday night, his teammates and coaches recognized Duffy’s first full season in the majors by voting him the winner of the 2015 Willie Mac Award.
The Willie Mac Award is given annually to the Giants’ most inspirational player as voted on by teammates, coaches, training staff, fans and McCovey. Duffy becomes the first rookie to win the award, in its 35th year.
Duffy was the last player to make the Giants’ roster this spring, as a utility infielder. He became the everyday third baseman in May, despite having played on a handful of games at the position in the minors. The ensuing months have seen Duffy turn himself into a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate.
Duffy entered Friday’s game against the Colorado batting .298 with 12 home runs and 76 RBIs, four RBIs shy of being the fourth Giant to drive in 80 in his rookie season. He has been a steady presence in the No. 3 spot in the Giants lineup, and Friday night played in his 116th consecutive game – the longest active streak in the National League and third longest in the majors.
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The 24-year-old leads all N.L. rookies in hits this season (167) and multi-hit games (42) and entered Friday with the most hits of any player in the N.L. since the All-Star Break.
The Giants presented Duffy with the award during an on-field ceremony before Friday’s game featuring past winners of the award and McCovey himself, who announced Duffy as the winner. Duffy gave a short speech, thanking his teammates, family and coaches who “taught me if you put in the time and the preparation, good things will come.”
“Finally I’d like to thank you, the fans,” Duffy said. “You pack this place every night and the energy you bring to the park is unbelievable, and as far as I know unrivaled. This award means a lot to me, and I can’t thank you enough.”
Duffy joined current Giants players Matt Cain (2009), Ryan Vogelsong (2011), Buster Posey (2012), Hunter Pence (2013) and Madison Bumgarner (2014) as past winners of the award.
“This award really I think is an inspiration award, and whoever receives this should be honored,” manager Bruce Bochy said before the winner was announced. “It’s to a guy that has basically fired (the players) up at times, or on a consistent basis, a guy that they respect and who they look up to as far as how they play the game.”
Duffy has only been playing it in the majors for 180 games. But with Friday night’s award, his team made a loud statement about the impression Duffy has made.