Seattle Mariners outfielder Kyle Lewis was named American League Rookie of the Year on Monday, and he won in a landslide. The 25-year-old earned all 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Lewis becomes the 12th unanimous AL winner since the award began in 1947, joining the likes of Carlton Fisk, Mark McGwire, Derek Jeter, Mike Trout and Aaron Judge.
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After appearing in just 18 games in 2019, Lewis played 58 of the Mariners’ 60 games in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He led his team in batting average (.262), home runs (11), runs (37) and walks (34), and among AL rookies he led in runs scored, walks, total bases (90), games played (tied, 58), and tied with White Sox outfielder Luis Robert for the home run lead (11). Of all rookies with more than 140 plate appearances, Lewis finished tops in on-base percentage (.364), slugging percentage (.437) and OPS (.801), and second in batting average.
Lewis was presented with the award on the MLB Network while he was at home in Atlanta with his parents and some friends. He was briefly overcome with emotion as the accomplishment sunk in.
"I'm still learning. I'm still working every day, trying to write my story." @Mariners OF @KLew_5 after being unanimously voted the 2020 Jackie Robinson AL Rookie of the Year! pic.twitter.com/OLVr5dKO40
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) November 10, 2020
“The road and all the highs and lows of the minor leagues and major leagues, the success and struggles with injuries and all that. When you get these milestone moments, there’s an overwhelming rush of emotions sometimes,” he later said on a video call with Seattle reporters.
The No. 11 overall pick from the 2016 MLB Draft out of unheralded Mercer University (he’s the school’s first athlete to be selected in the first round of the MLB, NFL or NHL drafts), Lewis hit a huge obstacle just 30 games into is pro career. He tore the ACL in his right knee in July 2016, and the injury kept him out for nearly 11 months.
But he kept a positive mindset during rehab, vowed to get back to the same level he was at, and ultimately just tried to control what he could control. He let God handle the rest.
“The biggest thing that I learned about myself was that I shouldn’t try to control everything,” Lewis said a year after the injury. “I feel as though, a lot of times, you try to control every situation and have your hands on every situation. I’ve tried to take my hands away and let it be what it is going to be and let God be in control of my life.”
Lewis returned and worked his way up to the Double-A level, then skipped Triple-A when he was called up to the Mariners. He made his MLB debut on Sept. 10, 2019 — hitting a home run for his first MLB hit. He then became the second player to hit home runs in his first three big-league games, and the first to homer in six of his first 10 games.
As he’s risen to stardom, Lewis has continually praised God. Upon the conclusion of the 2020 season, he wrote on Instagram, “Thank you GOD for every moment. Time flies. Seasons come and go. Embrace it. Day by day! #GTG #DayByDay” He often includes “#GTG” in his posts, which stands for “Glory to God.”
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