UNM's Garver Named Baseball Senior CLASS Award Candidate

Feb. 28, 2013

courtesy of UNM Athletics Communications

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - On the field Mitchell Garver is a team captain and an All-American. Off the field he is a three-time Academic All-Mountain West honoree and, now, one of 30 candidates for the Senior CLASS Award.

An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.

Garver is one of four candidates who is an All-American and is the only student athlete on the list from the Mountain West. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition.

The candidate class will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season, and those names will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will select one finalist who best exemplifies excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition. The Senior CLASS Award winner will be announced during the 2013 NCAA College World Series in Omaha June 15-26.

Below are highlights on why Garver was chosen as one of the 30 candidates:

Classroom: Garver excels both on the field and in the classroom. As an exercise science major he has been named Academic All-Mountain West each of the previous three years and is one of only four returning seniors in the entire conference trying to earn that honor for a fourth straight year. He has a cumulative 3.47 GPA, including a 3.60 GPA in Fall 2012, and is on track to graduate next spring. Once his baseball career is over, he is going to pursue a career in physical therapy and chiropractics.

Character: When Garver first came to UNM in the fall of 2009 he was lightly recruited, had no scholarship and no guarantee of playing time because he was behind an All-American on the depth chart. He always was, and remains, one of the first in the cages and among the last to leave. The following season his hard work paid off as he became the starter at catcher and has now started 122 straight games for the Lobos. During his breakout season in 2012, he showed he was willing to play wherever the coaches needed him. He started 45 games behind the plate, where he routinely called his own pitches, 15 games combined across all three outfield positions, and one game at designated hitter. He was also willing to move around the batting order, as he batted fifth in 17 games and sixth in 11 games, before moving to the leadoff spot for 33 games. Even though having a catcher bat leadoff is a bit unorthodox, the Lobos thrived with Garver setting the table for the rest of the lineup and posted a 24-9 record over those games. However, despite his stellar junior campaign Garver surprisingly went undrafted by Major League Baseball in 2012. Never one to dwell on disappointment, he was immediately back at work in the cages that same week trying to improve and prepare for the upcoming season. His teammates respect his hard work and leadership and voted him a team captain for the 2013 season.

Community: Being one of only two four-year Division I universities in the fifth largest state in the country, the University of New Mexico prides itself on its community service and involvement, and its athletic programs are no different. In 2011-12 with Garver helping lead the way, the UNM baseball team won the inaugural Lobo Service Award for its work in the local community and across the state as the team led all teams at UNM by completing the most total hours of community service and the most hours per student athlete with 1,285 and 35, respectively. To put that number into perspective, the baseball team contributed over 53 days of service to the Albuquerque and New Mexico communities. As a whole, UNM student athletes completed approximately 8,400 hours, or 350 days, during the 2011-12 school year. Garver helped the baseball team win the Lobo Service Award by volunteering with numerous organizations: Power Pals, a mentoring and reading program at nearby Kirtland Elementary; several Little Leagues in Albuquerque; The Ranches, an organization in Belen that promotes opportunity and gives meaningful help to struggling children and their families; and Toys for Tots.

Competition: Prior to Garver's freshman season in 2010, the University of New Mexico baseball team had been to the NCAA postseason only one time, and that was all the way back in 1962. Since Garver showed up on campus, however, UNM has advanced to three straight, and 2012 may have been the greatest baseball season in the school's history. The Lobos went 37-24, won both the Mountain West regular-season and tournament championships for the first time in school history, and, in addition to advancing to its third straight NCAA regional, dominated the conference's postseason awards. One of those awards went to Garver, who earned Co-Player of the Year with teammate DJ Peterson. Garver also received several All-America honors following the season and was named one of three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award, given annually to the top collegiate catcher in the country. He led all Division I catchers in batting (.377), hits (101), runs (68), total bases (164), and was second in doubles (27). He threw out 40 percent of attempted base stealers and helped guide the Lobo pitching staff to its lowest ERA in 35 years. His work both at the plate and behind it cannot be understated. Prior to the 2013 season he was named a Preseason First Team All-American by PerfectGame.org, Louisville Slugger, and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.