Why Wise Should Win the Johnny Bench Award

As a result of his success this year, Wise was named Wednesday as one of the three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award. SI tells you why we think he should win the award...

To the average person, Apopka, Fla. probably doesn't mean a whole lot.

But for anyone that follows the game of baseball fairly closely, there's a popular name that puts a face to the place just northwest of Orlando: Zack Greinke.

Greinke was a high school star for Apopka.

Yes, the same Greinke that currently leads the Major Leagues with an astonishing 1.10 ERA through 11 games.

Greinke has an 8-1 record so far for the Kansas City Royals and has already been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated due to his great start.

Why is this relevant to anything dealing with OU?

Consider the connection between OU's best player this year, Sooner senior catcher J.T. Wise, his father and Greinke.

Wise also played high school baseball for Apopka, where he was a four-year letterwinner and hit .394 with 24 home runs and 112 RBIs throughout his career.

Wise's father, Sonny (ironic that his future college coach would be Sunny), coached him and also Greinke.

In fact, Greinke was a senior when Wise was a sophomore.

The point of the matter is good players come in bunches, many from the same places, and this is one example of a great pitcher now excelling in the Major Leagues who played high school ball with one of the best catchers, if not the best catcher in college baseball this year, a player that might have a positive professional future in front of him.

As a result of his success this year, Wise was named Wednesday as one of the three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award.

The other two finalists are George Mason's Chris Henderson and Boston College's Tony Sanchez.

The final vote for the award will take place during this year's College World Series, which begins on June 13.

There are several reasons Wise should win the award, each of which defines a great catcher.

1. He was a defensive specialist—Wise threw out 30 base runners this season, 52 percent of which attempted to steal against him, a mark that placed him the best in the Big 12. In addition, he made just two errors the entire season, which earned him a .996 fielding percentage. That's not too bad for someone that takes part in every play.

2. Wise was a force at the plate—With the bat in his hands, he was the most dangerous hitter in the Sooner lineup. He hit .359 with 17 home runs, including a .363 batting average with 10 home runs in conference play. He led the team overall in both categories.

3. He was a great leader—Along with the other two reasons, Wise was the face of this Sooner team. The Sooners were known for their powerful lineup this year, and he was the anchor of that great lineup. He always seemed to come through in the clutch throughout the year, even though his stats weren't what he probably wanted in the NCAA Tournament.

For these reasons, Wise, a great player who has past connections with a likely MLB All-Star this year in Greinke, should win the 2009 Johnny Bench Award.


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