Twelve years after making his major league debut, Nick Markakis has been thrust into the limelight.
Whether he enjoys it is up for debate (though his teammates would argue that he won’t), but the Braves’ right fielder received considerably more attention this season than he has before.
In addition to making his first appearance in an All-Star game in July, Markakis is nominated for the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Associations’ Heart and Hustle Award. The award “is presented annually to an active player who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game.” Every team internally chooses a representative, and alumni and active MLB players vote on the nominee they feel most deserving.
Markakis will be recognized as the Braves’ choice before Wednesday’s game against the Marlins. While he expressed his gratitude for the nod, it was clear that he doesn’t dwell too much on the recent recognitions.
“I’m just doing my job, and if they want to reward me for doing my job, then I’ll take it,” he said. “It’s a cool honor, and I’ll accept the award tonight when I get it.”
At 34, Markakis is one of the older players on the team and brings veteran leadership to the clubhouse, but he was hesitant to label himself as a leader or a role model. Instead, he radiates humility and an acute awareness of the position he’s in as a professional athlete.
“We get paid a lot of money to play a kid’s game, so it’s fun at the same time,” he said. “We just have fun. I think that is overlooked sometimes. We’re just a bunch of grown-ups playing a kid’s game and having fun.”
Of course, it isn’t all fun and games when the team has a real shot at winning a division title, and it was evident that was on Markakis’ mind even when asked about the award. Given multiple opportunities to reflect on his recent achievements, he routinely talked about preparing himself to help the Braves win as many games as possible and wrapped up the award talk with praise for the team.
“We play well as a team together. We’ve got a great mix of guys here, both younger and older,” Markakis said. “We feed off each other. We’re learning how to win together, which is probably the hardest thing to do in baseball. We understand each other and what each other is capable of doing. It’s been a great season so far, and I’m looking forward to these last two months.”
The Heart and Hustle Award is presented to the overall winner in November.
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