Andrew Joseph Reed spent 2014 scaling heights no athlete in Kentucky history has ever achieved.
As a University of Kentucky junior, the left-handed hitting first baseman led Southeastern Conference baseball players with 23 home runs. The left-handed throwing Reed also led the SEC with 12 pitching victories.
In 80 years of SEC baseball, no one had ever recorded that “double.”
At season’s end, Reed swept all five major national college baseball player of the year awards.
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No one in Kentucky college sports history had ever done that.
So it seems appropriate that, in unprecedented fashion, AJ Reed has been elected the 2014 Lexington Herald-Leader Kentucky Sportsman of the Year.
From a record 150 ballots submitted by media members from across the commonwealth, Reed was named on 130 and received 81 first-place votes. Both are new Sportsman of the Year records. Reed’s margin of victory, 647 points, is the largest in the 34-year history of the award.
The Terre Haute, Ind., product is the first college baseball player to be chosen Kentucky Sportsman of the Year.
“What AJ Reed did, sweeping all five major national player of the year awards, was truly historic,” wrote Larry Vaught of the Danville Advocate-Messenger.
Added Larry Glover of Lexington’s WVLK-AM: “If AJ Reed were a basketball player with his résumé, he would win this thing unanimously. I think an argument could be made that his season was the greatest of any Wildcat in any sport.”
Aaron Harrison, the Kentucky shooting guard, finished second, while his coach, John Calipari, was third.
Harrison’s run of NCAA Tournament clutch shooting fueled the Wildcats’ 2014 national runner-up finish. The Richmond, Tex., native hit the game-deciding shot in three-straight NCAA Tournament wins — Louisville (round of 16), Michigan (round of eight) and Wisconsin (Final Four).
“One clutch basket is heroic. Two times is masterful. Three times makes you a legend,” wrote Darrell Bird of The Cats’ Pause.
Reed’s 2014 was epic from the beginning. In his first start as a pitcher, the 6-foot-4, 240 pounder got the victory as Kentucky upset then-No. 1 ranked Virginia. In an early-season tournament at Old Dominion, Reed hit five home runs in three games. Against St. Joseph’s, he became the first UK player ever to homer twice in one inning — the second one a grand slam.
“Watching him crush home runs (literally) left and right, I got the feeling that something really interesting was going on,” wrote Dick Gabriel of Lexington’s WLAP-AM. “But I had no way of knowing what kind of monstrous season lay ahead for AJ Reed.”
Added Jim Swinford of Cynthiana’s WCYN AM and FM: “What the numbers don’t show is (Reed’s) exceptional leadership on the UK baseball team.”
As a hitter, Reed led the nation in home runs (23), slugging percentage (.735) and OPS (1.211). He led the SEC in RBI (73), walks (49) and total bases (164). As a pitcher, Reed was UK’s ace. His 12-2 record was achieved with an impressive 2.09 ERA.
“Reed’s nickname is ‘Herm’ — short for George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth,” wrote Steve Moss of Lexington’s WKYT-TV, “and he lived up to that persona.”
Added Thomas Beisner of cn2 TV in Louisville: “When comparisons to Babe Ruth don’t seem over the top, you are in the midst of something truly remarkable. That was AJ Reed’s 2014.”
The Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy were among the National Player of the Year honors Reed reaped. He also won the Jon Olerud Award, which signifies the nation’s best two-way player. In addition to SEC Player of the Year, Reed was named SEC Male Athlete of the Year.
Capping off a 2014 filled with bounty, the Houston Astros selected Reed No. 42 overall in the Major League Baseball Draft. He reportedly signed for the full slot value of $1.35 million.
“Did the UK star just have the greatest baseball season ever?” wrote Alan Cutler of Lexington’s WLEX-TV. “Best pitcher and best hitter in the SEC, the best baseball conference. And he swept all five major National Player of the Year awards. Slam dunk, it’s Reed’s year.”