June 4, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Mitchell Garver, a junior catcher for the University of New Mexico baseball team, was named one of three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award by the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission Monday.
The Johnny Bench Award was formed in 2000 to be awarded annually to the nation's top collegiate catcher based on athletic ability, sportsmanship, team leadership, and character. The other finalists are Mike Zunino of Florida and Kevin Plawecki of Purdue.
Garver had a fantastic season for UNM as he helped the Lobos win their first regular-season Mountain West championship since 2000 and their second straight Mountain West Tournament title.
Due to injuries to teammates, Garver was forced into the leadoff role for 33 games this season. He excelled at it as the Lobos went 24-9 in games with him at the top of the lineup. He led the team with 68 runs and 27 doubles and ranked second on the team with a .377 batting average, 101 hits, 10 home runs, 57 RBIs, 164 total bases, a .612 slugging percentage, and a .438 on-base percentage. He also led the team with 268 at bats this season, which is the second-most in UNM history.
UNM head coach Ray Birmingham has been impressed with his star catcher's play all season.
"He's going to be a professional catcher someday, I can promise you that," Birmingham said.
The Albuquerque-native also led all NCAA catchers in several offensive categories during the regular season. He led all backstops in hits, batting average, runs, total bases, and he tied for the lead in doubles.
Garver also excelled defensively behind the plate. He posted a .989 fielding percentage and threw out nearly 40 percent of all base stealers.
A final vote among the national committee will occur during the College World Series. All finalists will be brought to Wichita and the winner will be announced at the 15th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet on June 28, 2012.