08/09/2012 4:33 PM
Article By: Joe Sherman
Yarmouth-Dennis shortstop Zak Blair (Mercyhurst) is the 2012 recipient of the Daniel J. Silva Award for Sportsmanship.
Selected annually by the Cape Cod League’s umpiring staff, the Silva Award is named for the first modern-era Cape League commissioner, who was a member of the inaugural CCBL Hall of Fame class in 2000. Introduced in 1973, it honors a player who exemplifies sportsmanship both on and off the diamond.
The 22-year-old Blair played all 44 regular-season games, finishing with the league’s seventh best batting average (.338), while collecting 50 hits, including five doubles, a triple, two home runs and 20 RBIs. He also stole eight bases for the Red Sox, who finished a strong second in the East Division standings.
For a time in June, the unassuming Blair was leading all Cape League hitters with a .402 batting average, earning him a starting role for the East All-Stars on July 28 against the West at Whitehouse Field in Harwich. He was the only player from a Division II school to start for either squad in the All-Star Game.
During the college season, Blair finished third on his team at .369 and led Mercyhurst with 18 stolen bases despite suffering a broken wrist that kept him out of the Lakers’ lineup for 14 games.
Blair is just the third Y-D player to win the coveted Silva Award. The most recent was 2010 Red Sox shortstop Joe Panik (St. John’s), San Francisco’s first-round draft choice in 2011, who is currently enjoying success in the Giants’ minor league system. Other Y-D winners were Mark Sweeney (Maine) in 1990 and Joe Sickles (Florida Southern) in 1981. Sweeney retired in 2008 after playing 14 big league seasons, all with National League clubs, while Sickles, drafted in the 15th round by the Chicago White Sox in 1983, was out of baseball after one minor league campaign.
Present-day big leaguers who preceded Blair as Silva Award winners include Cleveland Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta (Brewster, 2006) and Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Carlos Pena (Wareham, 1997). Red Sox second baseman Lou Merloni (Cotuit, 1992) and Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros second baseman Steve Lombardozzi (Falmouth, 1980) are among the former major leaguers who received the honor.