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Double Play: Little League Graduate Justin Verlander Adds 2011 American League MVP Award to Cy Young Selection

Double Play: Little League Graduate Justin Verlander Adds 2011 American League MVP Award to Cy Young Selection


Updated 11/22/11, originally published on 11/16/11.

Detroit Tigers’ ace and Tuckahoe Little League graduate Justin Verlander won the 2011 American League Cy Young Award as the league’s best pitcher, and now he is considered the league’s most outstanding performer bar none following his selection as Most Valuable Player.

Justin, who in 2011 achieved pitching’s Triple Crown with  an AL-best in wins (24), earned run average (2.40) and strikeouts (250), received each of the 28 first-place Cy Young votes cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America in each American League city.

In the MVP balloting, Justin received 13 of 28 first-place votes from members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Just as important, Justin received three votes for second place and three votes for third, boosting his points total to 280. Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby finished second overall (242 points); and Toronto Blue Jays’ right fielder Jose Bautista was third (231 points).

Leading all American League pitchers with 251 innings, a .192 opposing batting average and a 0.92 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) ratio, and highlighted by a 12-game win streak, including his second career no-hitter, Justin became the Tigers’ first Cy Young winner since Guillermo Hernandez in 1984. He is the first Tigers starting pitcher to win the award since Denny McLain in 1969.

Justin is the first starting pitcher in a quarter-century (Roger Clemens - 1986); and the first Tiger since 1984 (Guillermo Hernandez) -- to win the AL Most Valuable Player Award.

“Justin’s work ethic and competitiveness come naturally,” Richard Verlander, Justin’s father, said. “Early on he showed he had the athleticism and intangibles to be a special player. None of us really knew however he’d become a Major Leaguer, we just hoped he be successful at whatever he did.”

Describing his son as a “late bloomer,” Mr. Verlander said that Justin threw his first pitch at age six, and since he was 10, his first love has been baseball.

In 2008, Richard and Kathy Verlander were honored guests at the Little League Baseball World Series in South Williamsport, Pa. They were the recipients of the George and Barbara Bush Little League Parents of the Year Award.


Justin Verlander, the 2011 American League Cy Young Award winner, played youth baseball in Tuckahoe Little League in Richmond, Va. His parents, Richard and Kathy Verlander, were honored as the 2008 George and Barbara Bush Little League parents of the Year.

The Verlanders encouraged their son to try baseball after taking a walk near a pond one day when Justin was young. As Mr. Verlander tells the story, “We were at a park one day. Walking along a trail, I picked up a rock and threw it half the way across a pond. Justin then picked up a rock and threw it all the way across the pond. At that point we knew he had a special arm.”

Playing in the Tuckahoe Little League in Richmond, Va., Justin was coached by his father and made the league’s major division when he was 10.  Tuckahoe Little League has produced many quality players and teams over the years, highlighted by three trips to the World Series in Williamsport (1968, ’76, and ’93).

Certainly the league’s winning reputation motivated Justin, but his time for success would come later in life since his Little League all-star teams never got out of district play.

In Tuckahoe Little League, Justin played shortstop, third base and pitched. His dad said he was a pretty good hitter in Little League. Despite his youthful prowess with the bat, Justin did not have to step into the batter’s box during his college days at Old Dominion University (2001-2004); and at the Major League level, he is a career 0-for-20 at the plate.

“Justin worked very hard to get from one level to the next,” Mr. Verlander said. “As a parent you tell your child it’s great to have a dream, but you should always have a ‘Plan B.’ In Little League, Justin always went out to the mound to be successful, and to this date when he’s throws he likes to be in charge. That attitude and his expectations of himself come from his Little League days.”

As the Tigers top pick, second overall in the 2004 player entry draft, Justin quickly established himself as player to watch. He debuted in the Majors on Aug. 4, 2005 going 0-2 that year. In 2006, he secured a spot on the Tigers’ pitching staff out of spring training and compiled a 17-9 record with an earned run average (ERA) of 3.63 in 30 starts as the Tigers reached the World Series.

With a full year of Major League experience behind him, Justin pitched the Tigers to 18 wins in 2007. Posting an 18-6 record, with 183 strikeouts, and an ERA under 4.00 in more than 200 innings of work, he was selected as an American League All-Star, and was rated as having the best fastball and second-best curveball in the American League by Baseball America.

In 2011, Justin helped pitch the Tigers to their first American League Central Division Championship in 24 years (1987). In collecting all first-place votes, Justin totaled 196 points. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Jered Weaver received 17 second-place votes and was second in the voting with 97 points, followed by James Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays with 66, and fellow Little League graduate (North Vallejo, Calif., Little League) CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees with 63.