Every year at the close of the College World Series, one player is awarded Most Outstanding Player honors. The award is presented to the college baseball player who put on the best performance at the CWS in Omaha, Nebraska.
Kumar Rocker and his two brilliant pitching efforts in Omaha, one of which forced Game 3 and led to Vanderbilt's second College World Series title since 2014, is the most recent recipient of the award. Here is the history of the award, including when it began and a list of every player who has won it.
The CWS Most Outstanding Player Award: What is it?
The College World Series began in 1947 when California defeated Yale 8-7 for the first DI baseball national championship. Not only was the locale out of place — the championship was decided in Kalamazoo, Michigan — but so was the Most Outstanding Player trophy. Or should we say, lack thereof?
Tom Hamilton was the first recipient of the prestigious honor, but it wasn't until the third College World Series that the award was presented. He took home the award — now officially named the Jack Diesing, Sr. Most Outstanding Player Award — in 1949 in the first of the Texas Longhorns' six national championship victories.
Hamilton happened to be on the winning team, but that's not always been the case. The Most Outstanding Player award is given to the best overall performance in Omaha, from the first pitch of the CWS to the last. Sometimes, record-setting performances — like Dave Winfield's for Minnesota in 1973 — are enough for the award, but fall just short of a national title.
Beginning in 1999, the trophy itself took on a new look. The winner of the Most Outstanding Player award got to take home a smaller version of the iconic "Road to Omaha" trophy set outside of TD Ameritrade Park. The solid bronze statue is sixteen inches tall and weighs nearly 50 pounds.
The CWS Most Outstanding Player Award: Who gets it?
As we mentioned, this is an award for the best overall performance from the entire College World Series portion of the championship tournament. The winner is determined by a vote of the media members at the final series.
All media on hand in Omaha get to vote for their choice beginning in the fifth inning of Game 2 of the championship series. Voting closes in the eighth inning when ballots are counted and a winner is determined.
At least they hope.
Should the CWS championship series go to the decisive third game, well, those votes are thrown away and the process takes place again in the same fashion.
The CWS Most Outstanding Player Award: History of winners
Texas first baseman Tom Hamilton was the first college baseball player to earn the honors at the College World Series in 1949. Hamilton was a first baseman, the first of seven to win the award over the years. Kumar Rocker of Vanderbilt is the most recent winner. He's the 35th pitcher to earn the honor.
Pitchers have dominated the award. Thirty-five pitchers have captured MOP honors, with six of those pitchers being utility players contributing with the bat as well. Infielders are the second-most abundant recipient of the award, with 22 full-time position players. Twelve outfielders have grabbed the award and so have five catcher, most recently Adley Rutschman's record-setting performance for Oregon State in 2018 adding to the list. Miami (FL)'s Greg Ellena is the only full-time designated hitter to win Most Outstanding Player.
Only one MOP found his way to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Minnesota's Dave Winfield has that honor, however, there are plenty of familiar names that won MLB World Series, awards, and All-Star nods. Sal Bando — the 1965 winner — was a four-time All-Star and three-time World Series winner with the Oakland A's. Bob Horner won the award in 1977 for Arizona State and became the first overall pick in the 1978 MLB draft, earning Rookie of the Year honors that same year. Terry Francona has become one of the more successful managers in recent MLB lore, while Phil Nevin, Pat Burrell, and Dansby Swanson are some of the more recent names to be selected No. 1overall in the MLB draft.
Perhaps not so surprisingly, Southern California — its 12 College World Series titles more than any other program in history — has the most recipients of the award with seven. Texas is second with six, while Arizona State, Cal State Fullerton, and LSU all have five.
More juniors have won the award than any other class with 28. Seniors are second with 21, while sophomores trail with 15. Freshmen have now accounted for six Most Outstanding Player awards with Rocker's win.
We mentioned Dave Winfield and his tremendous 1973 College World Series when his 29 strikeouts over two starts (still third all-time) earned him MOP honors despite Minnesota falling short of the title. He is actually joined by 15 others whose teams did not win a national championship. John Hudgins of Stanford is the most recent to accomplish the feat in 2003. The others:
Ray Van Cleef (1950, Rutgers), Sidney Hatfield (1951, Tennessee), J.L. Smith (1953, Texas), Tom Yewcic (1954, Michigan State), Tom Borland (1955, Oklahoma A&M), Cal Emery (1957, Penn State), Littleton Fowler (1961, Oklahoma State), Bob Garibaldi (1963 Santa Clara), Joe Ferris (1964, Maine), Gene Ammann (1970, Florida State), Jerry Tabb (1971, Tulsa), Phil Nevin (1992, Cal State Fullerton), Pat Burrell (1996, Miami), and Marshall McDougall (1999, Florida State).
Below is the complete list of Most Outstanding Player winners:
|1949||Tom Hamilton||First baseman||Texas|
|1950||Ray Van Cleef||Outfielder||Rutgers|
|1951||Sidney Hatfield||Pitcher / First baseman||Tennessee|
|1952||James O'Neill||Pitcher||Holy Cross|
|1953||J. L. Smith||Pitcher||Texas|
|1954||Tom Yewcic||Catcher||Michigan State|
|1955||Tom Borland||Pitcher||Oklahoma A&M|
|1957||Cal Emery||Pitcher / First baseman||Penn State|
|1958||Bill Thom||Pitcher||Southern California|
|1959||Jim Dobson||Third baseman||Oklahoma State|
|1960||John Erickson||Second baseman||Minnesota|
|1961||Littleton Fowler||Pitcher||Oklahoma State|
|1962||Bob Garibaldi||Pitcher||Santa Clara|
|1963||Bud Hollowell||Catcher||Southern California|
|1965||Sal Bando||Third baseman||Arizona State|
|1966||Steve Arlin||Pitcher||Ohio State|
|1967||Ron Davini||Catcher||Arizona State|
|1968||Bill Seinsoth||First baseman||Southern California|
|1969||John Dolinsek||Outfielder||Arizona State|
|1970||Gene Ammann||Pitcher||Florida State|
|1971||Jerry Tabb||First baseman||Tulsa|
|1972||Russ McQueen||Pitcher||Southern California|
|1973||Dave Winfield||Pitcher / Outfielder||Minnesota|
|1974||George Milke||Pitcher||Southern California|
|1975||Mickey Reichenbach||First baseman||Texas|
|1976||Steve Powers||Pitcher / Designated hitter||Arizona|
|1977||Bob Horner||Third baseman||Arizona State|
|1978||Rod Boxberger||Pitcher||Southern California|
|1979||Tony Hudson||Pitcher||Cal State Fullerton|
|1981||Stan Holmes||Outfielder||Arizona State|
|1984||John Fishel||First baseman / Outfielder||Cal State Fullerton|
|1985||Greg Ellena||Designated hitter||Miami|
|1989||Greg Brummett||Pitcher||Wichita State|
|1992||Phil Nevin||Third baseman||Cal State Fullerton|
|1993||Todd Walker||Second baseman||LSU|
|1995||Mark Kotsay||Outfielder / Pitcher||Cal State Fullerton|
|1998||Wes Rachels||Second baseman||Southern California|
|1999||Marshall McDougall||Second baseman||Florida State|
|2002||Huston Street||Pitcher / Infielder||Texas|
|2004||Jason Windsor||Pitcher||Cal State Fullerton|
|2005||David Maroul||Third baseman||Texas|
|2006||Jonah Nickerson||Pitcher||Oregon State|
|2007||Jorge Reyes||Pitcher||Oregon State|
|2008||Tommy Mendonca||Third baseman||Fresno State|
|2010||Jackie Bradley Jr.||Outfielder||South Carolina|
|2011||Scott Wingo||Second baseman||South Carolina|
|2016||Andrew Beckwith||Pitcher||Coastal Carolina|
|2018||Adley Rutschman||Catcher||Oregon State|