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Fans pick Ciolli's catch, Yelich's shot
10/20/2011 5:29 PM ET
To borrow a line from the winning video itself, baseball fans went "head over heels" for Nick Ciolli's above-and-beyond catch, selecting the play as one of three video MiLBY Awards this month.

Ciolli's memorable homer-robbing catch in deep right field for Winston-Salem was voted the Play of the Year, earning an overwhelming 57 percent of the votes in a category that included a triple play, a bizarre double play, a pair of diving catches and two runners gunned down on the bases.

Fans also voted Justin Germano's perfect game as the MiLBY Moment of the Year, and Christian Yelich's dramatic postseason walk-off home run as the Homer of the Year.

Voting was conducted over several weeks on MiLB.com, with fans able to vote up to 25 times per category.

Moment of the Year

Among the nearly 20 no-hitters thrown in the Minors this year, Germano's perfect game stands out. On July 26, the Columbus starter dominated Syracuse in the Clippers' 3-0 win -- he did not go to a three-ball count all night and tied a season high with seven strikeouts. The video let fans see the final out, with home plate umpire Kelvin Bultron punching out Corey Brown on a 1-2 fastball on the inside corner. Germano's teammates swarmed the mound to congratulate the righty.

Although the game was on the road for Germano, he still got a nice reaction from the appreciative Chiefs fans after completing the 95-pitch gem.

"I don't think I was as nervous as people would think," Germano said. "I wanted to keep my cool and not put myself in any stressful situation. I was just thinking how nervous my wife was; she was watching it on Gameday. When I got two outs, I just laughed, thinking she was freaking out right now."

Germano's finishing touch beat out a pair of military veterans authoring surprise homecomings at two ballparks, Norfolk manager Gary Allenson oddly climbing the center field wall after an ejection, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg's emotional ejection, a man being shot out of a cannon and a mallard taking the field in Albuquerque.

Play of the Year

Fans reacted to Ciolli's incredible catch much like his teammates in the Winston-Salem bullpen did at the moment it happened.

A deep fly ball from Salem's David Mailman sent Ciolli running full speed to the corner in right field, where the outfield wall in BB&T Ballpark is just about waist-high. He made a lunging grab to catch the ball with his left hand, but immediately hit the wall and flipped over, literally out of sight from the camera and fans.

After the Dash bullpen jumped up to celebrate the play, Ciolli's hand slowly rose from the behind the green wall, showing that he did indeed make the grab. Grimacing and clearly a little sore, he flipped the ball back into the field and collected himself.

No doubt fueling its chances of winning a MiLBY was the fact that the play ranked No. 2 on ESPN SportsCenter's "Top Ten" plays of the night that day and also was a Baseball Tonigh "Web Gem."

Oddly enough, Ciolli, -- a left fielder who was moved to right after Jose Martinez was promoted -- nearly duplicated the exact play in the exact spot just one day later, robbing a homer at the short wall in right and nearly tumbling over again before catching himself.

Fans opted for the Ciolli catch over New Orleans' bobbled double play, Julio Borbon's ridiculous diving grab and New Britain's mind-melting 3-2-6-1-5-3-4-6-8 double play. Mycal Jones' Willie Mays-esque basket catch in deep center field finished second in the category, with a distant 17 percent.

Homer of the Year

Yelich's fist-pumping walk-off playoff homer was just about as dramatic as it sounds. Did we mention it came in the 15th inning, off the bat of a heralded first-round pick?

The Greensboro slugger's longball to beat Hickory on Sept. 7 was voted by baseball fans as the Homer of the Year in the Minors, besting a similar walk-off drive by another first-rounder, Bryce Harper. In fact, Yelich's two-run homer beat out shots like Shane Robinson's walk-off grand slam, Billy Hamilton's inside-the-parker, Russ Canzler's game-winning homer in the Triple-A All-Star Game and Kila Ka'aihue's walk-off shot that sent Omaha to the Pacific Coast League Finals.

So what made Yelich's home run -- which garnered 33 percent of the vote -- so memorable? The circumstances certainly added to it, with Greensboro, a Marlins affiliate, trailing 4-3 in the 15th inning of Game 1.

"I was just trying to put something in play," Yelich told the 'Hoppers after the game. "I hit it off the end of the bat and I didn't think it was out, but it sneaked over the fence. I didn't get it all, but I got enough."

Yelich's emotion and excitement rounding the bases are infectious, as is that of his teammates, who are literally jumping up and down around home plate. Yelich got a Gatorade bath and high fives, and fans at the game have talked about the pure drama and buzz of the moment itself.

"It's the first walk-off home run in my life," Yelich said. "Never done it on any level."



This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.