USA Baseball announced former Gamecock Justin Smoak as the 2009 Richard W. “Dick” Case Award winner recognizing Smoak as USA Baseball’s Athlete of the Year. Smoak earned the award in recognition of his performance on the 2009 USA Baseball World Cup team that won a gold medal in September at the IBAF World Cup in Europe. Smoak was presented the award on Jan. 29, 2010 at the Dr. Pepper Texas Rangers Mid-Winter Awards Banquet in Fort Worth, Texas by Eric Campbell, the General Manager of the Professional and National Teams for USA Baseball.
A prospect in the Texas Rangers farm system, Smoak helped lead Team USA to the gold medal at the 2009 IBAF Baseball World Cup in September in Europe. He set a U.S. World Cup record with nine home runs in the event, and he was named to the All-World Cup Team as well as the event’s Most Valuable Player. Smoak finished the tournament with a .291 average, and in addition to pacing the team in home runs, he also topped the club with 22 RBIs and 16 runs scored. His performance earned him USA Baseball’s nomination for the USOC September Athlete of the Month award, and he was later named the 2009 IBAF Senior Athlete of the Year.
Past USA Baseball Athlete of the Year award winners include Huston Street (2003), Ryan Zimmerman (2004), Ryan Shealy (2005), J.P. Arencibia (2006), Jayson Nix (2007) and Stephen Strasburg (2008).
In his three-year career at Carolina, Smoak (2006-07-08) set school records for home runs (62), runs batted in (207), bases on balls (151) and total bases (485). He is fifth on the SEC career list for home runs and is of only seven players in SEC history to record 60 or more round trippers. Smoak twice earned Most Outstanding Player honors in the NCAA Regionals, receiving the distinction in 2007 in Columbia and in 2008 in Raleigh. He started every game at first base for three straight years with 194 consecutive starts on the corner. Smoak played on three NCAA Regional teams and twice made it to the NCAA Super Regional. He was also a consensus first-team All-America his junior year in 2008 after batting .383 (90-for-235) with 23 HR and 72 RBI.
A MLB first round selection last year, Smoak has risen quickly in the Texas Rangers organization. Smoak finished in Triple-A with the Oklahoma City Redhawks and is rated as the No. 4 best prospect in the Minor Leagues by Baseball America.