Brett Gardner was honored at the Thurman Munson Awards Dinner for his charitable efforts

Brett Gardner doing an autograph signing at Duane Reade in NYC.

Brett Gardner doing an autograph signing at Duane Reade in NYC.

Brett Gardner was awarded for his charitable efforts at last night’s 34th annual Thurman Munson Awards at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. The Awards remembers the late, great Yankees captain and catcher, Thurman Munson, who played for the team for 11 seasons, which included two World Series championships, before tragically dying while trying to land his plane at the Akron-Canton Regional Airport during the 1979 season.

The AHRC New York City Foundation, which assists children and adults with disabilities, benefits from the Thurman Munson Awards Dinner. “The AHRC New York City Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that support programs enabling children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to lead richer, more productive lives, including programs of AHRC New York City.”

In Gardner’s speech at the gala, he talked about the significance that Munson’s picture has. “It was a picture of Thurman on the field completely dirty,” Gardner said. “I can’t help but think that that picture is placed there for a reason. It is not necessarily to show the young kids that walk in and out of that door this is the way to play the game, but is also to show the young kids that walk in and out of the door this is how you are supposed to live your life. I know that a lot of the young kids that come in an out of that complex, some of them 16 or 17 years old coming over from the Dominican or Puerto Rico or maybe Venezuela or Mexico for the first time, and they see his picture there. As something that has been there a long time, I don’t know if you have been inside those hallways, but it is something that you will really find special.”

According to Bryan Hoch, Gardner makes frequent visits to ailing children at the New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital during the season. It is outstanding that Gardner takes time out of his day to do this. He was also honored based on his success on the baseball field for the Yankees this past season.

Gardner has also been in the news recently because he gave his opinion on the major Jacoby Ellsbury signing. He said he was “surprised” at first, but that only makes sense because they have similar playing styles and Gardner was coming off a successful season. Gardner had 24 steals, 10 triples and a career-high 33 doubles last season. Gardner will look to improve on his 24 steals and .273 average.

“I look forward to playing beside him and learning from him and got a feeling he knows a thing or two about some pitchers – especially in our division – and pushing each other and getting the best out of each other,” Gardner said at the Munson Awards (according to Matt Ehalt of ESPNNY). “Go in, play hard, and I’ve played left field before and I’ve played center field, and I’m sure if they needed me I could slide over and play right field, too. Whatever it takes to help the team win and I’m sure they’re going to put our best team on the field.”

Gardner should definitely be able to learn from Ellsbury about when to be more aggressive when stealing bases. Ellsbury had 52 steals last season, and a career-high 70 steals in 2009, so he should definitely have some words of wisdom for Gardner, who is talented but less accomplished than Ellsbury.

This is great to hear from Gardner because he is willing to play any position that will help the team the most. Jacoby Ellsbury, who signed a seven-year, $153 million contract in December, will be the everyday center fielder. The best decision would be to have Gardner play left, Alfonso Soriano be the Designated Hitter and then Carlos Beltran would round out the outfield as the right fielder. Based on the speed of Gardner, Ellsbury and to a lesser extend Beltran, this outfield has the potential to be the best defensive trio in the league.

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