The Cardinals recognized Kissell's importance long before his untimely passing, first establishing the Award in 1995 to recognize a member of the organizational staff for excellence in player development. Not surprisingly, Kissell himself received the first Award.
This year's recipient is manager Chris "Hammer" Maloney (left) of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League champion Memphis Redbirds.
The well-deserved recognition was announced at the Cardinals annual minor league spring training orientation meeting held Thursday evening, March 11 in Jupiter, Florida.
Maloney was most humble and appreciative.
"It was a great award because George means everything to me," Maloney said on Friday. "He was a great mentor to me and a lot of other guys in the organization. To win an award with his name on it, there is no greater honor that a minor league manager can receive."
Cardinals Director of Minor League Operations John Vuch made the announcement.
"Hammer basically grew up in this game under George," Vuch said. "He came to the Cardinals as a player, then coach and manager. He embodies what the Kissell Award is about. It is a great commentary about the spirit of what George stood for."
The winner was selected through voting by the Cardinals player development staff, with the peer recognition making it all the more meaningful.
Vuch explains that a current Cardinals major league hero provided the inspiration for the change.
"One reason we did that is a couple of years ago when Adam Wainwright won the Darryl Kile Award, he mentioned how much more it meant to him because it was voted by his teammates and peers. So we started doing the same with this award," Vuch said.
Others recognized at the Thursday ceremony were the all-star players across the entire system in 2009. They include Mark Hamilton, Daniel Descalso, Pete Kozma, Tyler Henley, Steven Hill, Daryl Jones, Trey Hearne, Francisco Samuel and Lance Lynn of Springfield; Palm Beach's Samuel Freeman; Charles Cutler from Quad Cities, Batavia's Luis De La Cruz, Alan Ahmady (suspended) and Santo Maertz; and Robert Stock, Rich Racobaldo and David Kington from Johnson City. The Cardinals had no players recognized in the Gulf Coast League. In addition, Memphis all-star Jess Todd and Palm Beach all-star Shane Peterson were since traded away.
2009 was also a great year for Maloney and his Redbirds as Memphis earned its first league championship since 2000. For his leadership and success, Maloney was also named The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Minor League Manager of the Year for 2009.
After a rough 32-38 start, the Redbirds went 45-29 (.608) down the stretch in Maloney's third season as the skipper. The club then rode that momentum into the post-season, storming to the Pacific Coast League title over Albuquerque and Sacramento before falling to Durham in the single-game Triple-A championship.
It would have been easy to leave the Redbirds for dead, especially after the Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday trades stripped them of their top starter, Clayton Mortensen (ten quality starts, seven wins, 105 innings, 82 strikeouts), top reliever, Jess Todd (24 of 26 in save opportunities), and top hitter, Brett Wallace (.298 BA, number one Cardinals prospect).
In addition, the needs of the major league club in St. Louis were frequent, as they made at least 21 different calls for players from Memphis during the season. Many players were taken away multiple times, yet not only did Maloney hold his team together, a number of the youngsters became major contributors to the big club, such as reliever Blake Hawksworth.
Maloney recognized the important role his coaches played in both the season and the player development successes and feels he is sharing the award with them.
"The work (hitting coach) Mark Budaska and (pitching coach) Blaise Ilsley did was great," the winner said. "We really had the team playing well at the end of the year."
Maloney has spent a majority of his career with the Cardinals organization, having logged 13 years as a St. Louis minor league manager and coach from 1988-2001. He then served three years as manager of the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs in the Houston Astros system. Maloney posted a 212-220 record with the Zephyrs, including a first-place finish in 2002, before returning to the Cardinals for the 2005 season. The 47-year-old served as the inaugural manager of the Double-A Springfield Cardinals from 2005-2006.
Maloney's previous tenure with the Cardinals included Manager of the Year honors in three different leagues: the New York-Penn League while leading Hamilton in 1992, the South Atlantic League with Savannah in 1993, and the Texas League with Arkansas in 1998.
His 1993 Savannah squad posted a 94-48 record and captured the league title as Maloney was named Baseball Weekly's Minor League Manager of the Year. In his 13 seasons as a manager in the Cardinals system, Maloney's clubs have compiled a 857-742 (.536) record.
Maloney is actually a two-time Kissell Award winner, having also taken it home in 2006. He joins last year's honoree Mark DeJohn as the only dual winners in the Award's 15-year history.
"Now that George is not here, it is even better," Maloney explained. "It is a deeper feeling now that George is not around. It is something that is in his honor and I know he is looking down and he is smiling."
Previous George Kissell Award winners
|2008||Mark DeJohn||Batavia (SS-A) manager|
|2007||Dan Radison||Minor League Hitting Instructor|
|2006||Chris Maloney||Springfield (AA) Manager|
|2005||Ron "Pop" Warner||Palm Beach (A-Adv) Manager|
|2004||Blaise Ilsley||Tennessee (AA) Pitching Coach|
|2003||Mark DeJohn||Tennessee (AA) Manager|
|2002||Danny Sheaffer||Peoria (A) Manager|
|2001||Dyar Miller||Memphis (AAA) Pitching Coach|
|2000||Gaylen Pitts||Memphis (AAA) Manager|
|1999||Mark Riggins||Minor League Pitching Coordinator|
|1998||Joe Pettini||Minor League Field Coordinator|
|1997||Mark O'Neal||Memphis (AAA) Athletic Trainer|
|1996||Bo Milliken||Minor League Pitching Instructor|
|1995||George Kissell||Senior Field Coordinator|
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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