Johnny Bench (left) and Jake Smith (right): photo by Darren Decker
June 28, 2006
WICHITA, Kan. - Former East Carolina catcher Jake Smith was named the Coleman Company-Johnny Bench Award recipient, which is given the nations top collegiate catcher, the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission announced Wednesday night. Jeff Kunkel of the University of Michigan and Eddy Rodriguez of the University of Miami (Fla.) were also finalists for the award.
"I am extremely happy for Jake and his family," said Head Coach Billy Godwin. "This is a great honor for a great Pirate and well deserved. Jake was not only a huge presence on the field but also in the Pirate community, which is something that we expect out of our student-athletes."
Smith, who earned National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and Louisville Slugger second-team All-America honors, led the Pirates in seven offensive categories including average, hits, doubles, RBI, total bases and slugging percentage, while ranking second in home runs with 13.
The Greensboro, N.C. native became the eighth Pirate to earn first-team All-Conference USA honors with his selection in May. Earlier in the season Smith took home C-USA Hitter-of-the-Week honors on Feb. 27 after collecting a then-best five RBI against Duke in a 19-5 win. Smith finished his collegiate career with 29 home runs and 135 RBIs, which ranks in the top 12 on ECU's all-time charts.
Over 400 people attended the banquet, which also recognized the achievements and dedication of local youth, high school, college and professional athletes and coaches in the Wichita area.
"The Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission would like to congratulate all of the award finalists and especially Jake Smith, the Coleman Company - Johnny Bench National Collegiate Catcher of the Year," stated Bob Hanson, President & CEO. "They represent their teams and universities in a remarkable manner. We are very appreciative of the time and energy Johnny Bench has demonstrated in making this award a huge success. He has set a high standard for these young men to strive toward.
East Carolina finished the season 33-26 recording its tenth consecutive winning season dating back to 1997.