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11/15/2006 10:03 PM ET
Frandsen named Stenson winner
Award recognizes unselfishness, hard work, leadership
After getting "congratulated," Kevin Frandsen talks award with Jonathan Mayo. (Melissa Wintemute/MLB.com)

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Anytime Kevin Frandsen starts dragging a little bit, anytime he feels like he needs a little break, the Giants infield prospect reminds himself of two things.

1. He's playing a game for a living.
2. His family has been through a lot worse and never once has complained.

Of course, it's one thing to say those things and another to live it. Frandsen's ability to do just that is exactly what made him the 2006 Arizona Fall League Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award winner.

Frandsen, playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions, was one of six nominees for the award, presented annually to the AFL player who best exemplifies unselfishness, hard work and leadership. The manager and coaching staff from each of the six Fall League teams nominate one player for the award.

This year's other nominees were infielder Chase Headley (Peoria Saguaros/Padres), second baseman J.C. Holt (Peoria Javelinas/Braves), right-handed pitcher Jesse Ingram (Grand Canyon Rafters/Rangers), shortstop Matt Tolbert (Mesa Solar Sox/Twins) and shortstop Ben Zobrist (Phoenix Desert Dogs/Devil Rays).

"The six guys who were nominated, it was for a reason," said Frandsen, who was leading the league with a .418 batting average and .511 on-base percentage heading into Wednesday night's game. "Playing against all of these guys for the last six weeks, you understand what the qualities are. Knowing about Dernell and the two other winners before this one -- Mark (Teahen) and Andre (Ethier) -- you know the way they play the game. I'm very fortunate and very grateful for the opportunity to be nominated.

"To win, more than anything, it's a tribute to who Dernell was."

The Fall League instituted the Stenson Award in 2004 in memory of former AFL player Dernell Stenson, who was killed in 2003 in Arizona during the AFL season. He played for the Grand Canyon Rafters in 1998 and was playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions at the time of his death.

A donation in Frandsen's name will be made to a charity of his choice. Funds for the donation were provided by MLB.com's auction of an Alfonso Soriano autographed photo. Soriano played in the AFL in 1998 and was elected this year to the league's Hall of Fame.

Frandsen has been able to consistently bring the kind of attitude and work ethic that earned him this award by constantly drawing on the strength of his family. His brother, D.J., lost his battle with cancer two years ago and not a day goes by that Frandsen doesn't use how his brother and parents handled all of it as inspiration.

"He always fought through it," Frandsen said. "Every week, every day, he never complained and he just kept going after it. My parents, they're teachers, doing everything they love to do. They've never complained. When my brother got sick, they kept teaching, taking turns. I learned a lot from them."

Now other players can learn from him. The 2004 draft pick has made a quick ascension through the Giants' system, reaching the big leagues for the first time this season. He's got a clear shot at landing the everyday second base job in 2007, not too shabby for a 12th-round pick out of San Jose State.

"He's had big-league experience, and it shows," Scorpions teammate and 2005 first-round pick Ryan Braun said. "He's ready to play every day. He prepares himself like a Major Leaguer, and it shows with his performance on the field.

"He's one of the most consistent hitters I've ever been around. I definitely can pick his brain about a lot of things."

It's not just players who feel like they've bettered themselves by playing with Frandsen this fall. Scorpions manager Bobby Magallanes, in many ways, feels honored to have had him in his dugout for the past six weeks.

"He's brought leadership to this club," Magallanes said. "His example, the way he goes about things, he's a true professional on and off the field. He works hard, he hustles. He came here and definitely got something out of it.

"He's been an inspiration to me and to all of us. He's definitely the deserving person for this award."

For Frandsen, joining Teahen and Ethier as Stenson Award winners certainly is nice. But, as one might expect, it's not why he shows up every day, trying to outwork everyone else on the field.

"It's an honor to be recognized like that, but the fact is David Eckstein doesn't do it just because he's getting looked at," Frandsen said. "He's one heck of a ballplayer. I like to watch the way he plays. Craig Biggio is one of the best. Biggio does it the way it's suppposed to be done.

"To have people say, 'I love the way you work,' I don't know how to describe it in words. It's just the person you are, the way you were brought up and it's the game you love to play. You have to treat it like that."

Frandsen manages to do that with a pure sense of joy not often apparent in professional sports these days. It's a rare person who can respect the game, play it the right way and realize just how lucky he is to be running around on a field for a living.

"Physically, you're drained. Mentally, you're drained at times," Frandsen said. "But it's a game. It's so fun. We're getting paid to play baseball. It's the easiest thing. What would you rather be doing?"

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.