BOSTON -- The way the Major League Baseball Players' Alumni Association (MLBPAA) has set it up, only one annual Heart & Hustle Award nominee can represent each team.
And so, an honor conceived in 2005, to be voted on by all former players and presented in November to the Major Leaguer who best demonstrates a "passion for the game of baseball," will be denied to the likes of Mike Lowell, Dustin Pedroia and Coco Crisp.
There are just way too many Red Sox candidates for only one team nominee. Instead, this year's candidate is first baseman Kevin Youkilis.
"He is definitely the one that deserves that award," said Crisp, the Red Sox's ironman in center. "He goes out there and gives it his all. He wants to get a hit every at-bat. You appreciate a guy like that, that cares so much.
"Hustle and Heart," Crisp continued. "That has his name written all over it."
Before Tuesday's game, Youkilis was officially recognized as the Red Sox's nominee for the Heart & Hustle Award, chosen by a consortium of local former ballplayers. All former Major Leaguers will be eligible to vote for the league-wide award, which has been awarded to St. Louis' David Eckstein and Houston's Craig Biggio. Jerry Moses, a Red Sox catcher for parts of four seasons, presented on Tuesday.
"It's definitely a great honor," Youkilis said. "Former baseball players and Major League players are watching you play and think you're playing the game right and doing the right things. For me, that means a lot."
It doesn't take much watching of the Red Sox to figure out what exactly the MLPAA voted on. Youkilis' brilliance of effort shined particularly brightly during against the Yankees on Thursday, in which he dove head-first into first base and reaching by avoiding a Jason Giambi tag during a no-hit bid by Chien-Ming Wang.
"[I] definitely hurt myself a little bit doing that," Youkilis said. "But it almost put us in a position to win."
Added Youkilis: "You're definitely going to get beat up more [with that style of play]. But in the long run, does it pay off? I think that's a big thing. That one time you don't run hard or that one time you don't take that extra dive for a ball, it could cost you the game."
As for the nomination? No one from the Red Sox is complaining.
"If anybody here deserves it, it'd be that guy," Crisp said. "He does play with a passion."
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.