Recovering from a devastating ankle injury in 2011 that could have ended his career before it was established, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants has become this year's National League Most Valuable Player Award winner.
In his first full regular season in the Major Leagues, Posey had the highest batting average in the NL. Serving as the Giants' primary cleanup hitter, he had 24 home runs and 103 RBIs.
Although catchers are the most important players on the diamond, Posey, 25, became only the eighth NL catcher to earn the MVP Award.
In the 2008 First-year Player Draft, the Giants chose Posey from Florida State University with the fifth overall pick. Posey impressed the Giants with his leadership skills and pure athleticism -- he played shortstop as a freshman in college and during the Cape Cod League in 2006.
Rising through the Giants' Minor League system quickly, Posey made his Major League debut in 2009. Despite being in the Majors the previous September, he didn't make the club out of Spring Training in '10. By May, however, Posey was in the Majors to stay.
Immediately, Posey earned the respect from a veteran pitching staff. On the offensively starved Giants, he became their best hitter. His outstanding play allowed the Giants to trade veteran catcher Bengie Molina to the Texas Rangers.
Showing baseball maturity beyond his years, Posey guided the experienced pitching staff to the 2010 World Series while also contributing offensively. He was instrumental in helping the Giants to win their first World Series championship since moving to San Francisco in 1958.
The 2011 regular season began slowly for Posey, but by May he was starting to hit well. In late May, during an extra-inning game against the Marlins, Posey suffered a dislocated ankle and broken leg during a collision at the plate. At the time, many baseball people feared that his promising career had ended abruptly.
The Giants called for a rule change to disallow deliberate collisions at the plate. Although baseball hasn't changed the rule, upon Posey's return to action, Bruce Bochy, the Giants' manager and a former Major League catcher, issued an order to Posey: Under no circumstances should he block the plate.
Although the Giants received criticism from many veteran baseball people for ordering their catcher not to block the plate, they must protect their young star, who is probably the best player within their organization. During the course of the regular season, blocking the plate probably doesn't prevent more than 10 runs from scoring. Furthermore, this practice can seriously injure both players involved. With the greater awareness of what head injuries can do to someone's life, no team should encourage collisions anywhere on the diamond.
After two surgeries to repair the badly damaged leg and ankle and months of intensive rehabilitation therapy, Posey returned to play this past Spring Training. He had no restrictions, and not many people could tell any difference in his play.
Posey's recovery boggles the mind. Since crouching puts unusual stress on the ankles, not many baseball people thought Posey could be an everyday catcher again. This young man proved the skeptics wrong. Although Bochy started Posey at first base 29 times to keep the slugger in the lineup while giving his legs a rest, the Giants used Posey as their main catcher.
Posey handled the Giants' pitching staff expertly. When he caught them, they had a 3.50 ERA. He caught Matt Cain's perfect game against the Houston Astros. He had only two passed balls -- an outstanding feat for an everyday catcher.
Posey's pitchers trust his knowledge of the opposition. Subsequently, they rarely shake him off, because they believe Posey knows what they should throw in a certain situation.
Besides setting a low target, Posey also has a strong, accurate throwing arm that enabled him to throw out 30 percent potential base stealers and prevent many teams from trying to play the running game.
In October, Posey was named as the NL Comeback Player of the Year. Becoming the first catcher to win the NL batting title since Ernie Lombardi in 1942 sealed the MVP Award for Posey.
Since the MVP Award had already been chosen before the postseason began, Posey's grand slam against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 5 of the National League Division Series that allowed his team to advance didn't count in his MVP Award selection.
Posey's remarkable achievements after suffering a devastating injury makes him a player to watch closely in the future to see what else he will accomplish in his career.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.