Twins hand out Diamond Awards

Owner's donation highlights awards benefit

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Chapter of Baseball Writers' Association of America and The Bob Allison Ataxia Research Center held the first-annual Diamond Awards on Thursday night, raising nearly $800,000 for ataxia research, highlighted by a significant donation from Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad.

Pohlad, inspired by the event, announced that the Pohlad Family Foundation would contribute $500,000 to The Bob Allison Ataxia Research Center (BAARC) in honor of Bob Allison and his late wife, Eloise Pohlad.

"This is just a wonderful tribute," Pohlad said.

"We started out small a few years ago, raising thousands of dollars and with the help of the community and the Minnesota Twins we have been able to grow to this incredible event," said Mark Allison, the oldest son of Bob and Board Chair of BAARC.

"To find a cure for all the people currently afflicted with ataxia is what my dad's dream was and what he always wanted to accomplish," he added.

Allison was one of the most popular Minnesota Twins in team history. In 13 seasons with the Twins and Washington Senators, he hit 256 home runs, appeared in three All-Star Games and was voted the greatest left fielder in the first 40 years of the Twins. Allison made a catch in the 1965 World Series that's considered among the best in World Series history. He was known as a gifted athlete that played aggressive and worked hard.

"I was glad, playing second base, that I was on the same team as Bob Allison," said Hall of Famer Rod Carew, a featured speaker at the event. "I used to watch him going into second base and taking the second baseman and shortstop out."

After retirement, Allison was diagnosed with a form of ataxia, a neurological disease that caused him to lose his ability to walk, talk or even feed himself. After eight years of battling the disease, he died in 1995 at the age of 60.

Allison's family founded BAARC to help develop a comprehensive program to help find more effective treatments and an eventual cure for ataxia, which afflicts 150,000 people. During the past 10 years, BAARC has allocated $772,000 in start-up funding to help University of Minnesota researchers study ataxia. This seed money has been used to leverage another $22 million in federal grants from the National Institutes of Health.

"We are just very fortunate that, here in Minnesota, we have the greatest researchers and doctors working on this," Mark Allison said. "We couldn't ask for anything better from them and the Minnesota Twins."

The BAARC at the University of Minnesota has held a fundraising event called Major League Fare for the last five years, but this is the first time it has been combined with the awards ceremony. And, it is the first time the Baseball Writers' Association of America's Minnesota Chapter (BBWAA) presented the annual Minnesota Twins awards.

Johan Santana won both the Twins Pitcher of the Year award and Twins Most Valuable Player. The inaugural Bob Allison Award, to honor Twins leadership and work ethic, was given to catcher Mike Redmond.

"I am truly honored because I know, obviously, what Bob meant to the Twins," Redmond said. "I always told myself, when I put a uniform on for the first time in 1998, that I'm going to give everything I have."

Other award winners were: manager Ron Gardenhire, Carl R. Pohlad Award for Community Service; Francisco Liriano, Minor League Pitcher of the Year; David Winfree, Minor League Player of the Year; Jesse Crain, Rookie of the Year; and Carlos Silva, Most Improved Twin.

Torii Hunter, who broke his ankle and missed the final two months of last season, also made an appearance and seemed anxious to make his bid for next year's awards.

"I feel good," Hunter said. "My little boys keep me active."

"I'm tired of sitting on the couch," he added. "I'm ready to play, baby."

Over 500 people were at Thursday's event and they all stood when another recent donation was announced -- $1 million from Bob Allison's former Minor League teammate Jim Schindler.

"This is beyond words," said Kyle Allison, the youngest of Bob's three sons. "It's incredibly exciting to be a part of."

Lou Bavaro is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.