2005-06 Honor Roll: Chris Minaker

When Stanford Baseball had their backs against the wall in 2006, they looked to Chris Minaker at the plate, in the field and in the locker room. The senior shortstop carried the Card through an up-and-down season, including a glorious flash at the NCAA Regional that stunned college baseball. Minaker was the man, and we honor him as our third announced winner of The Bootleg's 2005-06 Honor Roll.

In the Summer Issue of The Bootleg Magazine, we released the 30 finalists for The Bootleg Honor Roll award for the 2005/2006 school-year.

The criteria are as follows:

Each academic year, The Bootleg's Honor Roll will recognize the top ten Stanford student-athletes who have performed at an exceptional level, with athletic accomplishments that are both extraordinary and inspirational.  While achieving athletic success, these athletes should also have displayed uncommon leadership, sportsmanship and respect towards their fellow teammates and opponents.  Finally, these honorees' performances and actions should also demonstrate their love for their particular sport as well as their school pride, the famed “Spirit of Stanford.”

During the month of August, we are releasing the 10 winners of this prestigious award, one by one.  We previously have recognized Alice Barnes and Candice Wiggins amongst this year's winners.  Our third announced member of the The Bootleg's 2005-06 Honor Roll is baseball performer Chris Minaker.

The shortstop resides squarely in the middle of his baseball team.  Spatially, the shortstop is closest to as many of his teammates as anyone.  Defensively, the shortstop must field the most balls on the team.  But these trivial minutiae do not speak to a shortstop's true centrality on his team.  He is its heart.  He is its soul.  And, indeed, no one embodied Stanford's 2006 baseball squad, a plucky team whose accomplishments exceeded its fans' wildest expectations, more than graduating senior Chris Minaker.

Minaker was the only Cardinal to make the All Pac-10 roster, and his stats made his placement on the First Team all but a certainty.  He led Stanford with a .362 batting average, 11 long balls, 46 runs and 258 at bats; in addition, his 68 RBI and 94 hits were also tops in the Pac-10 in 2006.

Then came the postseason.  Much like fellow honorees Candice Wiggins and Alice Barnes, Minaker played the greatest when the stakes were the highest, elevating his game to a previously undreamable level.

After squeaking into the postseason as the last team announced in the entire NCAA Tournament, the Cardinal were the presumptive sacrificial lamb to offensive powerhouse North Carolina State and host and defending national champion Texas Longhorns.  Well, someone forgot to hand Minaker a bracket or teach him the law of averages, because he defied all the odds in Austin.  His 9-for-14 hitting in the Regional against two of the toughest opponents he faced all season not only pushed Stanford into the Super Regional in Corvallis, but clinched the Cardinal's 12th straight Directors' Cup.  The Stanford senior capped off the Regional with PlayStation numbers in the Final against North Carolina State: 5-for-5 hitting and six runs scored.

Unsurprisingly then, NCAA Austin Regional Most Outstanding Player counts among Minaker's honors.  He leaves The Farm with three years of starts, a .311 average, 129 runs, 216 hits, 18 homers, 138 RBI, 48 walks, and perhaps most underrated of all, .965 fielding – phenomenal for a shortstop.  In all the key categories – hits, homers, batting and slugging average, on-base percentage and fielding percentage – Minaker improved each of his years on The Farm, which hints at the work ethic that made him one of the team's most respected members over his career.

Ultimately, perhaps the best way to remember Chris' career is with Chris' own words: "Work hard both on the field and in the classroom, because hard work can make an average player a good player and a good player a great player."  Indeed, throughout his career and his senior season especially, Minaker lived up to the latter half of his mantra.

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