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Casteel named Helms winner at BADAs
Best of ABL's 2013/14 season honoured at annual gala
04/14/2014 4:49 PM ET
Melbourne catcher Ryan Casteel took home the most prized award in Australian baseball.
Melbourne catcher Ryan Casteel took home the most prized award in Australian baseball. (SMP Images)

GOLD COAST, 13 April - Jet Couriers Melbourne Aces catcher and Colorado Rockies import Ryan Casteel was the star of the night, capturing SAM BAT Champion Crusher honours and the hallowed Helms Award as Australian Baseball League Most Valuable Player during the 2014 Baseball Australia Diamond Awards Saturday on the Gold Coast.

One of the first three Colorado Rockies imports in ABL history, Casteel, now back in the United States and playing with the Double-A Tulsa Drillers in the Rockies organisation, made his presence known throughout the league in every facet of the game. Not only did the Aces backstop capture the ABL's batting crown, he starred behind the plate, too. Casteel handled a talented Melbourne pitching staff including rising phenoms like left-hander Lewis Thorpe who credited Casteel with helping to develop his immense skills during the 2013/14 season. He becomes the first Aces player to win the Helms Award since the league's rebirth in 2010/14.

SAM BAT Champion Crusher
Renowned for his bat through his first four seasons in Minor League Baseball, Casteel didn't disappoint his Aces fans in his debut ABL season, leading to. Casteel paced the circuit in a host of offensive categories, winning the league's batting title with a .343 average. His 11 home runs were tops in the league in 2013/14, as was his .614 slugging percentage, and Casteel finished in the top three among ABL qualifiers in runs batted in, hits, on-base percentage, extra-base hits, and total bases to be named SAM BAT Champion Crusher

Pitcher of the Year
When the road led through the Perth Heat starting rotation for the first half of the 2013/14 ABL season, it led to a loss almost without exception for opposing teams. That was due in large part to the dominant performance of former major leaguer Mike Ekstrom, an addition to the Perth staff for the campaign. Ekstrom, a veteran of over 50 MLB games in five seasons, claimed three of the league's first five Delta Air Lines Pitcher of the Week awards in November and December and was nearly unhittable in his ABL tenure. Over seven appearances, Ekstrom won five decisions against just one loss, limiting opposing hitters to a .176 batting average while posting a 0.72 ERA and striking out 57 against just ten walks in 50 1/3 innings pitched. Despite not pitching after 21 December, Ekstrom still finished the season with the league's single-season ERA record and came third in the strikeout category.

Reliever of the Year
Sydney Blue Sox ageless left-hander Dae-Sung Koo continued to dazzle and inspire in his fourth ABL season. A veteran of the highest level of professional baseball in four different countries (Australia, Japan, the United States, and his native Korea), Koo was his usual brilliant self in 2013/14. The Blue Sox closer, back in his familiar role at the back of the bullpen after a season setting up Matt Williams, converted all but one of his 12 save attempts, tying for the league lead with Canberra's Sean Toler. The 44-year-old furthered his legend in a December contest at Canberra, making his first ABL start and going 4 2/3 strong innings, allowing just two runs on six hits. In his 20 relief appearances, the lefty registered a 1.69 ERA, 22 strikeouts to eight walks, and held opponents to a .182 batting average against.

Rawlings Gold Glove Award
A Rockies prospect like Ryan Casteel, Perth Heat shortstop Joey Wong arrived in the ABL of his own choosing, wanting to find an offseason home to continue plying his trade. He made a major impact on the Claxton Shield-champion Heat in the process. Wong, who became a fan favourite in Perth, impressed in 45 games at shortstop, making just five errors and leading all league shortstops in fielding percentage at .978. Wong made a host of spectacular plays throughout the campaign, helping the Heat to turn 49 double plays, second-most in the league, and finish with the circuit's second-best team fielding percentage at .975.

Rookie of the Year
The future is bright for the pitching staff of the Melbourne Aces, and left-hander Lewis Thorpe is on the front lines of the reasons why. At just 18 years old, Thorpe is the ABL's Rookie of the Year and is putting a chill down the spines of opposing offences both in Australia and in Minor League Baseball. The Melbourne-born southpaw starred in a seven-start stint for the Aces this season, going 3-2 with a 2.45 ERA against the best competition his country has to offer. Thorpe struck out 30 batters while walking just ten through his 36.2 innings pitched and was honoured as the ABL's Pitcher of the Week for Round 6. Observers in the States have started to take notice, as well. Baseball America ranked Thorpe the seventh-best prospect in the Minnesota Twins system entering 2014, and Baseball Prospectus tabbed him the 101st-best prospect in all of Minor League Baseball.

Fielder's Choice Play of the Year
The Canberra Cavalry had already made history. Their 16 November win over the EDA Rhinos of Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League gave the ABL its first win in Asia Series play after two editions with an Australian participant. The Cavalry might have been in the record books, but they certainly weren't satisfied.

With an opportunity to advance to the Asia Series championship game on the line, Cavalry catcher and fan favourite Jack Murphy strode to the plate with his team tied 5-5 with the mighty Samsung Lions of the Korea Baseball Organisation in the top of the 10th inning. Jeremy Barnes led away from first base. One swing of Murphy's bat was all it took. Murphy crushed a two-run home run over the right-field wall, sparking a four-run rally en route to a 9-5 Cavalry win that catapulted the ABL's champions to the tournament's Grand Final where they would clinch the league's first Asia Series premiership two days later. The home run, and another monumental blast in the showcase's final game, helped send Murphy to tournament Most Valuable Player honours.

Administration of the Year
The 2012/13 Claxton Shield brought unprecedented exposure to the Canberra Cavalry, ACT's first national baseball champions ever. The Cavalry head office, led by General Manager Thom Carter, did not let the spotlight burn out. Night after night, the Cavalry opened their doors to record crowds throughout the 2013/14 season, and the black-and-orange faithful were rewarded for their support. After capturing the capital's first Claxton Shield in February, the Cavalry landed an even bigger fish in November. Canberra shocked the baseball world by knocking off powerhouses from Korea and Taiwan en route to claiming the 2014 Asia Series crown, a first for an Australian entrant. Though the Cavalry fell to Perth in the 2014 ABL Championship Series, Carter and his staff have set the stage for a contender for years to come in the capital.

The ABL congratulates this year's winners, and we look forward to another historic season in 2014/15.

Tyler Maun is TheABL.com.au's staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.