May 16, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Mitchell Garver has been named a 2012 Johnny Bench Award semifinalist by the Greater Witchita Area Sports Commission. The junior is one of just 12 catchers in the NCAA, and the only one from the Mountain West, to receive this honor.
The recognition is justly deserved for Garver. He entered the week leading all collegiate catchers in hits, (82), runs (56), and total bases (133). He was also among the leaders in doubles, (second, 21), batting average (third, .378), slugging percentage (fifth, .613), runs batted in (seventh, 48), and home runs (tied for 15th, 8).
Garver has done all this despite being bounced around the lineup due to injuries to teammates. He eventually settled into the leadoff spot where he has been spectacular. In the 24 games the Lobos have played with Garver batting first, the team owns a 17-7 record. He is hitting .423 (47-of-111) with a .496 on-base percentage and has recorded at least two hits in 17 of the 24 games.
Garver has excelled defensively as well. He has committed only three errors in 366 chances for a sterling fielding percentage of .992. He has also thrown out 41 percent of all attempted base stealers.
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 Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission started the Johnny Bench Award in 2000. The commission felt that since the most demanding and dangerous position on a baseball field is the one designated as "number 2" on a scorecard - the catcher - then it would be only fitting that the baseball community nationally recognize the top collegiate catcher.
Thus, the Johnny Bench Award was formed to be awarded annually to the nation's top collegiate catcher based on athletic ability, sportsmanship, team leadership, and character.
A vote by the national selection committee will narrow the list of semifinalists to three finalists, who will be announced on June 4. Another vote during the College World Series will determine who will be named the Johnny Bench National Collegiate Catcher of the Year. The three finalists will be brought to Wichita, Kan., for the awards banquet on June 28.