Zunino nation's top catcher


Florida's Mike Zunino waits for a pitch during team practice at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., on June 14. Zunino won the Bench award Thursday. (The Associated Press)

Published: Friday, June 29, 2012 at 9:47 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 29, 2012 at 9:47 a.m.

Florida junior Mike Zunino continued to add to his impressive list of postseason recognition when he was named the recipient of the Johnny Bench Award, which is presented to the nation's top catcher, on Thursday night.

Zunino is a finalist for the second year in a row, the Gator standout joined junior Mitchell Garver of New Mexico and junior Kevin Plawecki of Purdue at the 15th Greater Wichita Sports Banquet competing for the prize which is awarded by BaseballSavings.com. Zunino becomes UF's first recipient of the prestigious accolade and is the fourth winner from the Southeastern Conference.




Zunino, a consensus first-team All-American, the Dick Howser Trophy recipient and Baseball America's 2012 College Player of the Year, is one of three finalists for the Golden Spikes Award that will be presented July 6. He finished as the Gators' “Triple Crown” winner, leading the team in batting average (.322), RBI (67) and homers (19), and paced UF in total bases (164), doubles (28), sacrifice flies (11) and slugging percentage (.669). He was also 9-for-10 on the basepaths. A two-time, first-team All-SEC recipient and two-time member of the league's All-Defensive Team, Zunino registered a .994 fielding percentage, with three errors in 510 chances, and threw out 20 runners who attempted to steal on him.

Zunino was voted to the NCAA Gainesville Regional All-Tournament Team for the third-consecutive season after belting homers in consecutive games against No. 24 Georgia Tech and he led the Gators with a .500 (4-for-8) clip in the pair of victories over NC State that punched Florida's return ticket to Omaha for its third-straight appearance at the NCAA College World Series. The first-round pick of the Seattle Mariners at No. 3 overall was 8-for-25 (.320) during the NCAA Tourney with team highs in slugging percentage (.720), RBI (12) and homers (3).

Johnny Bench's career honors include: National League Rookie of the Year (1968); National League Most Valuable Player (1970, 1972); World Series Most Valuable Player (1976); 14-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner. In 1980, he set an endurance record by catching 100+ games for 13-consecutive seasons. Bench was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in January 1989 with the fourth-highest percentage of total votes cast.

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