National Collegiate Baseball Writers June 8, 2001
For Immediate Release
Contact: Russ Anderson
Junior ace is 14-1, leads the nation in strikeouts
Mark Prior, winner of the 2001 Dick Howser Trophy, is 14-1 and leads the nation in strikeouts (AP)

OMAHA, Neb. (NCBWA) Mark Prior, who dominated NCAA Division I pitching statistics and who led Southern California to the 2001 NCAA World Series, has been named as 15th recipient of the prestigious Dick Howser Trophy as college baseball player of the year.

In voting by members of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association in conjunction with the sponsoring Greater St. Petersburg (Fla.) Chamber of Commerce, Prior was an overwhelming choice for the honor among a field of seven finalists and an original list of 80-plus nominees nationwide.

The 6-5, 220-pound junior righthander from Bonita, Calif., was Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Year and consensus All-America. He dominated Pac-10 pitching statistics while running up national numbers unequalled among Division I moundmen. The junior standout also topped the conference in pitching victories, ERA, strikeouts, and opponents' batting average (.167).

Prior enters the 2001 NCAA World Series as the top total strikeouts man in NCAA Division I with 189 in 131 2/3 innings along with 14-1 record. His 1.50 earned run average is third in the country in June 4 statistics while the Trojans' standout also is third nationally with 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

He paced coach Mike Gillespie's to a 44-17 overall record and 5-0 mark in the NCAA Los Angeles Regional as well as the Los Angeles Super Regional where USC swept Florida International to make the school's 21st trip to the NCAA World Series. The Trojans seek their NCAA-most 13th national baseball championship and second in four seasons after the 1998 squad under Gillespie captured the crown.

Prior also helped pitch the 1999 and '00 teams to the NCAA Regionals and the 2000 squad to the third round of the NCAA World Series. The California resident has recorded 10 or more strikeouts in a game 12 times this year.

He recently eclipsed both the Pacific-10 and Southern California school records for strikeouts in one season with 189. All-America Seth Etherton had 182 whiffs for the previous co-marks for the 1998 Trojans.

The All-America junior had a season-high 15 strikeouts against Arizona in a March 23 win over the Wildcats while he dominated Pac-10 hitters throughout the 2001 campaign. In his first six conference starts he fired five complete games, had a 6-0 record, 76 strikeouts in 53 innings pitched, walked only four hitters, and allowed just over four total hits a game with 25 by opponents.

His only loss of the year was a 2-0 setback at Stanford as he worked 7 1/3 innings, struck out 13, and walked only one Cardinal. Since that time he is 10-0, including one span in which he allowed only three earned runs over 59 innings and did not allow a home run in eight consecutive starts.

Prior was chosen Player of the Year by Collegiate Baseball magazine on its Louisville Slugger All-America team and was the second player selected in the June 5, 2001, Major League Baseball draft by the Chicago Cubs. The junior business major with a cumulative 3.18 grade point average on a 4.0 scale follows in the footsteps of several Trojans' national player of the year choices, but he is the first Southern California star to win the Howser Trophy.

Some of the other greats from USC with All-America credentials included Etherton (1998), 1B Mark McGwire (1984), IF Roy Smalley (1973), OF Fred Lynn (1972), and P Steve Busby (1971), among others.

The Dick Howser Trophy, given in memory of the former Florida State University All-America shortstop and major league player and manager who died of brain cancer in 1987, is regarded by many as college baseball's most prestigious award.

"We're extremely proud for our 2001 Dick Howser Trophy recipient Mark Prior," said David Feaster, Chairman of the Chamber's Howser Trophy Committee. "and for coach Gillespie and his USC teammates. We realize the hard work, perseverance, teamwork, and dedication that go into a performance such as Mark had this season, and I am certain it was the result of a total team effort.

In addition to Friday's presentation by NCBWA President Russell Anderson of Conference USA, Howser Tropy committee member George Elbe and Feaster, the Greater St. Pete Chamber will have a special presentation to Prior at a football game this autumn in Los Angeles.

Criteria for consideration for the trophy include performance on the field, leadership, moral character and courage, qualities that were exemplified by Dick Howser's life.

A Florida native, Howser was twice an All-America shortstop at Florida State University (1957-58), then coached the Seminoles in 1979 after a career as a major league player and coach. The personable college standout and successful Major League manager also served as an analyst for ESPN's coverage of the 1981 NCAA World Series with Jim Simpson. After one year in the college ranks, Howser returned to the majors to manage the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals and won the World Series with the Royals in 1985. The baseball stadium on the Florida State campus is named for Howser.

The winner's name is inscribed on the permanent trophy, a bronze bust of Howser permanently displayed at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, home of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the 1999 NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four, among other championship events. Both the winner and his school receive a special trophy to keep on public display at the university.

The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 100th birthday in 1999. The organization has long been a vital force in the baseball affairs of the city, both in spring training and during the pursuit of a major league baseball franchise for the Tampa Bay area, and continues its solid role in the in both college and professional sports as well as serving as the home for the Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.

NCBWA membership includes writers, broadcasters and publicists. Designed to promote and publicize college baseball, it is the sport's only college media-related organization, founded in 1962, and is in the midst of its 40th anniversary year in '01.

The Howser Trophy was created in 1987, shortly after Howser's death. 1987-98 winners were selected by the American Baseball Coaches Association before the NCBWA became the voting body in 1999.

Previous winners of the Howser Trophy are Mike Fiore, Miami, 1987; Robin Ventura, Oklahoma State, 1988; Scott Bryant, Texas, 1989; Alex Fernandez, Miami-Dade Community College South, 1990; Frank Rodriguez, Howard College (Texas), 1991; Brooks Kieschnick, Texas, 1992 and 1993; Jason Varitek, Georgia Tech, 1994; Todd Helton, Tennessee, 1995; Kris Benson, Clemson, 1996; J. D. Drew, Florida State, 1997; Eddy Furniss, LSU, 1998; Jason Jennings, Baylor, 1999; and Mark Teixeira, Georgia Tech, 2000.

For further information, please contact: David Feaster, Chairman, Dick Howser Trophy Committee (727-388-1000) or Russell Anderson, President, NCBWA (312-553-0483).