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Wayne Cavadi | | July 16, 2021

The Golden Spikes Award: The ultimate guide

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Kevin Kopps was named the winner of the 43rd Golden Spikes Award, presented by USA Baseball, Thursday evening on ESPN’s SportsCenter. Kopps is the second student-athlete from Arkansas to win the award, joining former Razorback outfielder Andrew Benintendi (2015).

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Adley Rutschman of Oregon State ended his illustrious college career as the winner of the 42nd Golden Spikes Award. The announcement was made June 14 at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha at the MLB in Omaha game between the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers. 

2019 WINNER: 3 essential facts about Adley Rutschman

Rutschman joined 2018 winner Andrew Vaughn (California), Navy's Noah Song and Vanderbilt's JJ Bleday as the finalists for the 2019 award. The award has gone to amateur baseball players ever since Division I college baseball's Bob Horner took home the first honors in 1978 as a member of the Arizona State Sun Devils. So, what is it that makes the Golden Spikes Award so special?


The Golden Spikes Award isn't simply an award for Division I college baseball players, although that's how it has turned out a majority of the time. USA Baseball in conjunction with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation awards the Golden Spikes to the student-athlete who combines his skills on the field with his sportsmanship the best. 

That includes baseball players from every level including high school, NAIA, and junior colleges as well as all divisions of NCAA play. Just twice in the 41-year history of the award has the honor not gone to a DI baseball player: Alex Fernandez out of Miami Dade Community College (1990) and Bryce Harper out of Southern Nevada in 2010. 

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The award itself looks exactly how you would imagine it. Gold is molded into a pair of the baseball player's footwear but it's changed a bit over the years. Once surrounded by crystal that appears to be in the shape of a baseball, it was mounted atop a base that lists the year and winner's name. Now the golden spikes rest one atop the other laying in front of a baseball field and resting atop a base with past winners names etched on it. The gold certainly helps add a little shine to any trophy case.

USA Baseball The Golden Spikes Award.

The big mystery is where the name Golden Spikes originated. We talked to the people at USA Baseball and there seems to be no record of how the illustrious award earned its name. An internet search didn't provide any further insight. We're going to keep looking to track down where the name came from.


The process has changed a bit over the years but has remained the same in concept. A preseason watch list gets narrowed down throughout the season until a winner is decided. But let's take a look at how we get there.

USA Baseball trims a list of more than 100 candidates to 55, opening the college baseball season with its preseason watch list. That list will remain for more than two months, until the 40-player midseason watch list is released, which was announced April 10 this season. Beginning in 2007, USA Baseball added the 25-man semifinalist list, which was released on May 15 of the 2019 season. For the second consecutive season, the semifinalist release was a historic one. Last season, Delta State's Zack Shannon was the first Division II baseball player to make the semifinals cut, and this season high school standout Bobby Witt, Jr. is the first non-collegiate athlete to make the top 25.

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Now comes the fun part. A group of more than 200 voters — consisting of the Golden Spikes Advisory Board, national baseball media, USA Baseball staff members, former Golden Spikes winners, and more — begins the voting process. But they aren't alone. Fans can vote up to 25 times a day until Sunday, May 26, contributing to 5 percent of the total vote. 

Next come the finalists, which will be announced on Wednesday, May 29, this season. Once they are announced, the same voting body and fan voting process open once again. Fan voting will be open until June 10, and fans can vote up to 25 times at Last season, Kody Clemens, Casey Mize, and Brady Singer joined Vaughn as the finalists for the award.

We then waited for the June 14 announcement of the 42nd Golden Spikes Award winner, until Rutschman was named the latest college baseball player to take home the honors.

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THE GOLDEN SPIKES AWARD: History of past winners

Arizona State's Bob Horner was the first to take home the Golden Spikes Award in 1978 in a season that saw him not only become the first overall pick in the MLB draft but go right to the big leagues and win the 1978 National League Rookie of the Year for the Atlanta Braves. Here's some food for thought. Horner was equally impressive in 1977 when he took home College World Series Most Outstanding Player honors. Had there been a Golden Spikes then, we may have had a back-to-back winner.

HORNER'S LEGACY: Take a look at Arizona State's all-time starting lineup

California's Andrew Vaughn was the 2018 winner and had a season worthy of becoming the first repeat recipient, but alas, we still await to see if anyone will go back-to-back. Here are more notable facts from the history of the award:

  • Thirteen of the recipients have been full-time pitchers, while Brendan McKay (2017, Louisville) and A.J. Reed (2015, Kentucky) stood out as pitchers and hitters. Seven winners have been outfielders. Fifteen have been infielders and four more catchers. Then there was Bryce Harper, who played infield, outfield, and catcher. 
  • Five Golden Spikes winners have been the Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year. Horner was the first and is joined by Harper, Kris Bryant, Jason Jennings and Buster Posey. Three have won the MVP award (Bryant, Harper, and Posey), while eight have won World Series titles and 18 have made MLB All Star Game appearances. 
  • Eight have gone on to become MLB first overall picks. Horner was the first in 1978, followed by Ben McDonald (1989), Phil Nevin (1992), Pat Burrell (1998), David Price (2007), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Harper (2010) and now Rutschman in 2019.
  • Eighteen of the Golden Spikes Award winners have also won the Dick Howser Award presented by the NCBWA as their DI college baseball national player of the year. Rutschman accomplished both in 2019.

Below is a list of all of the winners of the 42 Golden Spikes Awards handed out through the 2019 season: 

Year Winner Position School
2019  Adley Rutschman C Oregon State
2018 Andrew Vaughn IF California
2017  Brendan McKay P/1B Louisville
2016 Kyle Lewis OF Mercer
2015 Andrew Benintendi OF Arkansas
2014 A.J. Reed P/IF Kentucky
2013 Kris Bryant IF San Diego
2012 Mike Zunino C Florida
2011 Trevor Bauer P UCLA
2010 Bryce Harper C/OF/IF Southern Nevada
In 2009 Stephen Strasburg dominated college baseball
2009 Stephen Strasburg P San Diego State
2008 Buster Posey C Florida State
2007 David Price P Vanderbilt
2006 Tim Lincecum P Washington
2005 Alex Gordon 3B Nebraska
2004 Jered Weaver P Long Beach State
2003 Rickie Weeks 2B Southern
2002 Khalil Greene SS Clemson
2001 Mark Prior P Southern California
2000 Kip Bouknight P South Carolina
1999 Jason Jennings P Baylor
1998 Pat Burrell 3B Miami
In 1998 Miami's Burrell was baseball's best
1997 J.D. Drew OF Florida State
1996 Travis Lee 1B San Diego State
1995 Mark Kotsay OF Cal State Fullerton
1994 Jason Varitek C Georgia Tech
1993 Darren Dreifort Wichita State
1992 Phil Nevin 3B Cal State Fullerton
1991 Mike Kelly OF Arizona State
1990 Alex Fernandez P Miami Dade CC
1989 Ben McDonald P LSU
1988 Robin Ventura 3B Oklahoma State
In 1988 Robin Ventura was college baseball's best
1987 Jim Abbott P Michigan
1986 Mike Loynd P Florida State
1985 Will Clark 1B Mississippi State
1984 Oddibe McDowell OF Arizona State
1983 Dave Magadan 1B Alabama
1982 Augie Schmidt SS New Orleans
1981 Mike Fuentes OF Florida State
1980 Terry Francona OF Arizona
1979 Tim Wallach 1B Cal State Fullerton
1978 Bob Horner 3B Arizona State
In 1984 Oddibe McDowell was baseball's best

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Division I
Baseball Championship
June 17 - 26/27, 2022
TD Ameritrade Park | Omaha, NE

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