Bisons announce 2017 player awards

Fields named MVP, Murphy Smith is Most Valuable Pitcher

By Buffalo Bisons | August 31, 2017 7:15 PM ET

The Buffalo Bisons today announced that OF Roemon Fields has been named the team's Stan Barron Most Valuable Player for the 2017 season. The Herd also named RHP Murphy Smith its Warren Spahn Most Valuable Pitcher just prior to Fan Appreciation Night against the Pawtucket Red Sox.

C Mike Ohlman was awarded the 2017 Jimmy Griffin Hometown Hero award while RHP John Stilson was named the 2017 Judge Michael Dillon Comeback Player of the Year and was awarded the team's Frank J. Vallone Community Service Award. INF Jason Leblebijian was voted by his teammates as the Joe DeSa Most Inspirational Player.

The Joe Byron Fan of the Year Award was given to season ticket holder Ray Szkutak, who is known by Bisons fans as 'Pounder.'

Stan Barron Most Valuable Player - Roemon Fields
Named after Stan Barron, a legend in Buffalo broadcasting, this award is given to the player who demonstrates outstanding ability, good sportsmanship and dedication.

In his first full season at Triple-A, Fields has terrorized International League pitchers and catchers with his elite speed. The 26-year old has stolen 39 bases, 10 more than any other player in the league. The total is also just two shy of the Bisons modern era single-season record of 41, set in 1994 by Tony Womack. The last Bisons player to lead a Triple-A league in stolen bases was Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Savage, who stole 31 bases during the 1961 season.

In 99 games with the Herd, Fields has averaged .284 at the plate, the ninth-highest mark in the IL and second-best among lefty hitters. He has also collected 11 doubles and a team-high five triples to go along with a .350 on-base percentage and 45 runs scored. Fields has also averaged .341 with a .394 on-base percentage when leading off an inning.

Fields ranks 4th on the Bisons with 95 hits. He hit safely in 22 of 23 games with the club from May 7 through June 1, posting a .413 average (38-92) during the impressive stretch. He also stole a base in a Bisons modern-era record seven consecutive games, July 29-August 5, without being caught once.

Video: Roemon Fields RBI Single

Warren Spahn Most Valuable Pitcher - Murphy Smith
Established in 2001, this award is presented to the Bisons' pitcher who demonstrates outstanding ability, good sportsmanship and dedication throughout the course of the season.

RHP Murphy Smith didn't start the season with Bisons, but became one of the team's most reliable arms after his promotion to the team from Double-A New Hampshire on April 16. Filling in whatever role the club needed, Smith earned his first three career Triple-A saves in his first 11 appearance with the team and then provided longer relief by tossing two innings or more in 13 of his 29 total outings out of the bullpen. Smith has also started seven games for the Herd this season, allow two or fewer runs in six of them.

Overall, Smith is 4-5 with a 3.66 ERA in 36 games with the Herd. He has struck out 48 and walked just 17 in 76.1 innings of work. He has held left-handed batters to a .195 average against with just one home run in 123 at-bats.

Smith is just the third reliever to ever win the Bisons Most Valuable Pitcher award, joining RHP Dustin Antolin (2016) and RHP Bobby Korecky (2014).

Jimmy Griffin Hometown Hero Award - Mike Ohlman
The Hometown Hero Award was created during the 2008 season to honor the impact and support of the former Mayor of Buffalo, Jimmy Griffin. There was no bigger supporter of the team and of a downtown ballpark for the fans of the area than Mayor Griffin. The award is given to the player who performs the best in home games in front of the fans of Buffalo.

The gap between left field and centerfield became 'Ohlman Ally' in 2017 as C Mike Ohlman produced one key hit after another by driving the baseball to the same spot at Coca-Cola Field. The backstop's 16 extra-base hits, nine home runs and .507 slugging percentage in 45 contests in Buffalo all lead the team. His 26 RBI at the downtown ballpark were second to only teammate Jason Leblebijian. He has also drawn a team-best 28 walks at home this year, for a .393 on-base pct. at Coca-Cola Field.

For the season, Ohlman has averaged .221 with 16 doubles, 12 home runs and 38 RBI in 88 games.

Video: Mike Ohlman Homerun

Judge Michael Dillon Comeback Player of the Year - John Stilson
This award is named for the late Judge Michael F. Dillon, who was a three-time Erie County district attorney and served a 14-year term on the State Supreme Court. It recognizes an individual who overcomes injury, personal problems or a rough season and exemplifies the meaning of hard work and dedication.

RHP John Stilson's return to Buffalo has been a long journey. After being one of the Herd's most reliable relievers in 2013 (6-2, 2.09 ERA) and for the first part of 2014 (2-0, 3.18 ERA), a torn labrum in his right shoulder forced him to miss the last two months of the 2014 season. He returned from the injury in May of 2015, but made just one appearance for Single-A Dunedin before reinjuring his shoulder and missing the rest of that season. After spending 2016 with Double-A New Hampshire, Stilson returned as one of Buffalo's best bullpen arms this year.

In 34 games with the Bisons this year (3rd most on team), Stilson was 2-4 with a 3.14 ERA and two saves. He racked up 46 strikeouts in 48.2 innings of work before a groin injury last week prematurely ended his season.

Frank J. "Fremo" Vallone Community Service Award - John Stilson
The Community Service Award is named for the late Frank J. Vallone, the Bisons good will ambassador and most celebrated fan who served as a host and ticket salesperson from 1987-1990. The award is presented annually to the player who best represents the club in community related activities, charitable and youth oriented activities.

Along with his battle to come back from two shoulder injuries, RHP John Stilson gave time to reunite with the Western New York and Southern Ontario communities. He served as an instructor during the team's annual 3-Day Youth Camp and took his love for the game on the road when he visited the Miracle League on Grand Island. All year long, Stilson served as a great ambassador for the Buffalo Bisons organization.

Joe DeSa Most Inspirational Player - Jason Leblebijian
The Joe DeSa Award is named for the slick-fielding, power hitting player who was with the Bisons from 1985-86. He lost his life in a car accident in December of 1986. The award is voted on by the team and presented annually to the player who truly exemplifies the meaning of inspiration by his play and love of the game.

In his team-best 117 games, INF Jason Leblebijian played at five different defensive positions and started in every spot in the batting order except leadoff. He was a starter for the International League at the 2017 Triple-A All-Star Game and leads all Bisons hitters with 36 extra-base hits and 60 RBI on the season. Leblebijian homered on back-to-back days, April 9-10, hit two out on May 29 and drove in a season-best five runs on May 6. The slugger has posted a .297 average this year while hitting with runners in scoring position.

For the season, Leblebijian has averaged .252 with 21 doubles, four triples, 11 home runs and 53 runs scored.

Video: Jason Leblebijian 2 run-RBI Triple

Joe Byron Fan of the Year - "Pounder" Ray Szkutak
The Fan of the Year Award is named for the late Joe Byron, who is best known for singing the Canadian and US National Anthems at Buffalo Bisons baseball games and Buffalo Sabres hockey games. The award is presented each season to the person who best represents fans through their dedication to the team and to baseball.

RAY SZKUTAK of East Aurora has been a season ticket holder since the 1987 season at War Memorial Stadium and attended his first Bisons game at The Rockpile back in 1963. At Coca-Cola Field, "Pounder" is a familiar face in the front row of section 109, often viewable when broadcast cameras zoom in on right-handed batters. He normally attends Bisons games with his wife, Paula, or his mother, and has also traveled to see the Herd in Charlotte, Indianapolis, Louisville, Pawtucket and Rochester. Szutak also serves as a scorekeeper for the Depew American Legion Post 1528 baseball team.

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

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