October 27, 2016


ST. LOUIS – Oct. 27, 2016 – The stars of sportsmanship will be out at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis on Nov. 19.  That night, the Musial Awards will celebrate the class acts in sports.  Honorees include baseball hall of famer Cal Ripken Jr., women’s basketball star Tamika Catchings, and top-ranked American men’s tennis player Jack Sock.  They will be recognized alongside a cast of selfless and humble individuals who, over the past year, displayed extraordinary kindness, compassion, integrity and civility in sports.

The Musial Awards – presented by Maryville University – celebrate the year’s greatest moments of sportsmanship and the biggest names in sports who exemplify class and character.  Produced annually by the St. Louis Sports Commission and the National Sportsmanship Foundation, the event is named for Stan “The Man” Musial, a beloved baseball icon who embodied the virtues of sportsmanship.  This year’s show takes place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19 at the Peabody Opera House in Downtown St. Louis.

Here are the recipients of the 2016 Musial Awards:

Amed Castro-Chavez:  In January, Castro-Chavez, a high school wrestler from Iowa, was in line to win a match by forfeit.  A few weeks earlier, a wrestler from the opposing team collapsed during a meet and tragically passed away, so the team did not have a wrestler to compete in Castro-Chavez’s weight class.  But rather than walk to the center of the mat to have his hand raised in victory, Castro-Chavez declined the win.  He instead walked to the bleachers to hug the mother of the deceased wrestler, console the family and honor his late opponent.

Tamika Catchings:  In her 16th and final WNBA season, Catchings put a selfless twist on her farewell tour.  The 10-time All-Star opted to forego the ceremonies, speeches and gifts normally directed at athletes of her caliber, and instead used the opportunity to give back.  At each final WNBA stop, she presented a $2,000 grant to a local charity and hosted a postgame meet-and-greet with fans.  Add to that the grace, generosity and perseverance she has shown throughout her career, and Catchings is a perfect recipient for the Musial Award for Extraordinary Character, one of two special awards presented at the Musial Awards.  (Cal Ripken Jr. is receiving the Musial Lifetime Achievement Award for Sportsmanship).  Overcoming a hearing impairment that affected both ears, Catchings became one of women’s basketball’s most prolific players and greatest ambassadors.  She is a four-time Olympic gold medalist and a three-time winner of the WNBA’s Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award.

Joel Jensen:  At this year’s Little League World Series, ESPN caught Jensen utter some magical words to his pitcher – and son – Isaiah.  In a consolation game against Italy, the coach of the team from Bend, Ore., visited the mound to tell Isaiah he would face one more hitter.  But before delivering that message, he said, “I just came out to tell you how much I love you, as a dad and a player.  You’re doing awesome out here.”  The exchange was a powerful reminder of what really matters, even in the heat of competition.

Nic Nelson:  The head coach of the men’s basketball team at Briar Cliff University in Iowa, Nelson is the 2016 recipient of the NAIA’s “All That’s Right in Sport” Award presented annually at the Musial Awards.  He is being honored for the tremendous kindness and compassion his program has directed toward Trevor Welp, a local child who has been part of the Briar Cliff team since 2011.  That year, at age 10, Trevor lost his father.  Hoping to help fill a void, Nelson, who was a family friend, invited Trevor to become part of the Charger family.  He served as the team’s ball boy.  Later in the year, the Chargers surprised Trevor by showing up at his school basketball game – something the team has done every season since.  When Briar Cliff won its conference title last year, the team had Trevor cut down the net.

Judie Offerdahl, Shelby Baker and Sarah Myhre:  Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh faced the wrath of fans when he missed what would have been a game-winning 27-yard field goal in this year’s NFC Wild Card game.  But amidst an upset fan base, three teachers at Northpoint Elementary School in Blaine, Minn., instilled a valuable lesson in empathy and perspective.  Offerdahl, Baker and Myhre asked their first grade students to write letters of encouragement to the kicker.  They wanted their kids to understand how Walsh felt and how he picked himself up – with class.  Walsh received the letters, and was so touched, he showed up at the school to thank the teachers and first graders for their support.

Cal Ripken Jr.:  In receiving the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award for Sportsmanship, the pinnacle honor bestowed at the Musial Awards, Ripken is being honored for the way he played the game and the manner in which he carried himself on and off the field.  A 19-time All-Star and holder of baseball’s record for consecutive games played, he is admired for his consistent, respectful and humble approach.  Like Musial, Ripken spent his entire hall of fame career with one team – 21 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles.  He remains active in the game teaching “the Ripken Way,” particularly at the youth level, and has authored several books that use baseball as a theme to address issues faced every day by kids who play sports.

Travis Rudolph:  Just prior to the start of the college football season, Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph and his teammates visited a Tallahassee middle school.  In the lunchroom, Rudolph spotted a boy eating alone.  The FSU star player approached the student and asked if he could join him for lunch.  Rudolph didn’t know it at the time, but the student was Bo Paske, a sixth grader who has autism and often eats lunch by himself.  A school employee took a photo of Rudolph eating pizza with Bo and sent the image to Bo’s mom, Leah, who posted it on Facebook.  Leah wrote, “I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten.  This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes.”

Buck Smith:  As this year’s local Musial Award recipient, Buck Smith is being recognized for his selfless dedication to Challenger Baseball, an organization he founded on the principles of sportsmanship 23 years ago.  The league is open to anyone with a developmental disability from age 5 to 90.  Everyone bats every inning, everyone runs the bases, and everyone crosses the plate.  There is no keeping score; what matters is the joy experienced by those getting to learn and enjoy the game.  Smith’s labor of love has grown to include 66 teams and 800 players in the metro area.

Jack Sock:  The current top-ranked American men’s tennis player in the world, Sock was responsible for one of the year’s most entertaining moments of sportsmanship.  He led Lleyton Hewitt 5-4 in the first set of a match in Australia when a Hewitt serve was called out.  Sock yelled to his opponent, “That was in if you want to challenge it!”  Hewitt appeared incredulous.  But Sock insisted, “Challenge it!”  So Hewitt did and sure enough, the replay showed the ball hit the line in.  Hewitt rallied for a two-set victory.  That gesture in itself would be Musial Award worthy.  But the humble manner in which Sock approached his Olympic experience in Rio makes him all the more deserving of recognition.  When others pulled out of the Olympic tennis competition due to fears of Zika and other concerns, Sock said, “I would have come down here with anything but a broken bone.”  In fact, he started the tournament battling walking pneumonia.  But that did not keep him from participating in the opening ceremonies and treasuring the chance to represent his country.  When all was said and done, Sock took home the gold medal in mixed doubles and bronze in men’s doubles.

Hayes and Tammy Stripling:  In his Major League debut in April, Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning and was on the verge of history.  No pitcher has tossed a no-hitter in his first big league appearance since 1892.  But with five outs to go, Stripling, who was two years removed from elbow surgery, hit his pitch limit.  Despite the no-hit bid and history on the line, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts removed him from the game.  Stripling’s replacement promptly gave up a game-tying homer and the Dodgers lost to the Giants in 10 innings.  The next morning, Hayes Stripling, Ross’s dad, spotted Roberts in the lobby of the team hotel.  Hayes approached the Dodger skipper – not to second-guess him or express disappointment, but rather to convey appreciation.  He thanked Roberts for looking out for his son and said he had the family’s support forever.  In light of the all-too-common examples of overzealous and overinvested parents in youth sports, it was refreshing to see a mom and dad at the major league level set such a positive example.

Charlie Wilson:  Eleven-year-old Charlie Wilson, an elite youth hockey player from Dallas, has gone to great lengths to support a friend.  Charlie’s classmate, Libby Serber, was diagnosed in 2012 with a rare form of kidney cancer.  Inspired by Libby’s battle, Charlie grew his hair for two years so he could make a donation to Locks of Love in her honor.  As his hair reached past his shoulders, Charlie endured bullying at school and taunts on the ice.  His loyalty was recognized this past season by the Dallas Stars, who invited Charlie and Libby to a team practice at which members of the team cut Charlie’s hair.

Additional background and stories on all of the 2016 Musial Awards honorees can be found by clicking on the “Honorees” link at www.MusialAwards.com.


Tickets for the Musial Awards are on sale through Ticketmaster and can be purchased online at www.ticketmaster.com, at the Scottrade Center box office and all Ticketmaster ticket centers, or by phone at 800-745-3000.  Tickets are $50 (orchestra level seating) and $30 (mezzanine level seating).  Additional service fees may apply.

The Musial Awards also offers all-inclusive tickets and packages that provide prime seating for the awards show plus a pre-show dinner, reserved parking and more.  Information can be obtained at www.MusialAwards.com or by contacting Emily Thompson at 314-345-5111.


In addition to the live awards show on Nov. 19, the Musial Awards will air as a primetime one-hour television special in December on KSDK-TV Channel 5, St. Louis’ NBC affiliate, with potential syndication in other markets.


This marks the 11th year the Musial Awards has taken place in St. Louis.  In addition to keeping alive the legacy of Stan the Man, the event aims to inspire selflessness, integrity and civility in sports and society.


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