Daniel Bard’s remarkable comeback year includes one more honor. And this one is close to his heart.
The Rockies’ reliever on Monday was named the 2020 winner of the Tony Conigliaro Award. After seven years away from the majors, Bard returned to pitch for the Rockies and eventually became their closer, saving six games in six opportunities.
The Tony Conigliaro Award is presented to the “Major Leaguer who has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination and courage that were trademarks of Tony C.”
The award, created by the Boston Red Sox in 1990, honors Conigliaro, the late Boston outfielder whose bright career was altered by a beanball to his eye in 1967. Conigliaro, a Massachusetts native, made his debut with the Red Sox at age 19 in 1964. He led the American League with 32 home runs in 1965 and was a first-time all-star in 1967, shortly before he was struck in the face by a pitch in August. After missing all of the 1968 season, Conigliaro returned to the majors and played in 382 more games. He retired in 1975, at age 30, when vision problems forced him from the game. He died in 1990 at age 45.
“From my days playing in Boston, I remember how special this award is,” said Bard, who began his big-league career with the Red Sox, making his debut in 2009. “It’s special, not only because of Tony’s story and the incredible obstacles he had to overcome, but I also remember the list of names of all the great players who have won previously.
“I am grateful to those who voted for me and to the New England baseball community for their support over the years. I am honored to be chosen as this year’s recipient.”
Among the other recipients of the award are Bo Jackson, Jim Abbott, Bret Saberhagen and Rich Hill. Bard is the third Rockies player to win the award following Aaron Cook in 2005 and Chad Bettis in 2017. Cook came back from emergency surgery from blood clots in his arm, and Bettis battled back from testicular cancer.
Bard overcame a case of the yips and increasing performance anxiety to stage his comeback. He began 2020 just hoping to impress teams during a January tryout and get an invitation to spring training. He not only hooked up with the Rockies but thrived as a late-game reliever. In 23 appearances, including 14 scoreless outings, Bard went 4-2 with a 3.65 ERA.
The Tony Conigliaro Award is selected by a 15-person committee that includes media members, MLB executives, Red Sox officials and Conigliaro’s brothers, Richie and Billy.
In October, Bard was named National League comeback player of the year in the 2020 Players Choice Awards, as sponsored by the MLB Players Association. Earlier this month, Bard was named Major League Baseball’s National League comeback player of year, as voted on by the 30 club beat reporters from MLB.com.
Tony Conigliaro Award recipients:
2020 — Daniel Bard, Rockies
2019 — Rich Hill, Dodgers
2018 — Stephen Piscotty, Athletics
2017 — Chad Bettis, Rockies
2016 — Yangervis Solarte, Padres
2015 — Mitch Harris, Cardinals
2014 — Wilson Ramos, Nationals
2013 — John Lackey, Red Sox
2012 — R.A. Dickey, Mets
2011 — Tony Campana, Cubs
2010 — Joaquin Benoit, Rays
2009 — Chris Carpenter, Cardinals
2008 — Rocco Baldelli, Rays
2007 — Jon Lester, Red Sox
2006 — Freddy Sanchez, Pirates
2005 — Aaron Cook, Rockies
2004 — Dewon Brazelton, Rays
2003 — Jim Mecir, Athletics
2002 — Jose Rijo, Reds
2001 — Jason Johnson, Orioles; Graeme Lloyd, Expos
2000 — Kent Mercker, Angels; Tony Saunders, Marlins
1999 — Mike Lowell, Marlins
1998 — Bret Saberhagen, Red Sox
1997 — Eric Davis, Orioles
1996 — Curtis Pride, Tigers
1995 — Scott Radinsky, White Sox
1994 — Mark Leiter, Angels
1993 — Bo Jackson, White Sox
1992 — Jim Abbott, Angels
1991 — Dickie Thon, Phillies
1990 — Jim Eisenreich, Royals
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