Amused by emcee Kenny Mayne of ESPN.com, moved by the poignant story of O’Dea High School baseball player Josh Dickerson and gleeful for a few words from a longtime favorite, Edgar Martinez, the crowd at Benaroya Hall had themselves a night Friday at the Sports Star of the Year event.
The line of the night belonged to Drew Bledsoe. The former Washington State University quarterback was bantering with former University of Washington safety Lawyer Malloy about the schools’ rivalry prior to presenting an award. Bledsoe recalled his decision to turn pro after his junior season.
“We had to make a living off our athletic abilities,” Bledsoe said. “To me, it meant declaring for the NFL draft. For Lawyer, it meant signing with the University of Washington.”
A close second in the wit award was Joel McHale, Seattle native and TV personality. McHale sent a video expressing anguish over the Seahawks’ second-round exit from the playoffs.
“I was heartbroken when the season ended last week,” he said, “but I was happy to see Russell Wilson pick up some work as a stunt elf in ‘The Hobbit.’”
The 78th annual event, sponsored by MTR Western and the most enduring event of its kind in the country, handed out hardware for three athletes and selected Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez’s Aug. 15 perfect game as the Story of the Year. The decisions were made by the region’s fans who voted online.
Professional Athlete of the Year was Marshawn Lynch, the nearly indestructible Seahawks running back. Lynch won out over Sounders striker Eddie Johnson, NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw and Poulsbo supercross racer Ryan Villopoto.
Typically for Lynch, the limelight also found him elusive — he was in Hawaii preparing for the Pro Bowl Sunday. The teammate who accepted his award, receiver Doug Baldwin, said, smiling, “He didn’t even text back when I asked him what he wanted to say.” No surprise for anyone who knows Lynch’s large preference for deeds over words.
Olympic swimmer Nathan Adrian of Bremerton was the Male (amateur) Star of the Year, prevailing over a field that included UW golfer Chris Williams, UW football tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, lacrosse star Drew Snider of O’Dea High School and the University of Maryland and David DeCastro, former Bellevue High School and Stanford lineman who was a first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Receiving on behalf of Adrian, who is attending Cal and training in Berkeley, were his parents, Jim and Cecelia Adrian.
Claiming the Female (amateur) Star of the Year was former UW coxswain Mary Whipple, who won her second Olympic gold medal at the London Olympics. Her boats have not lost a race since 2006.
She won out over Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors of Auburn, UW track and cross country runner Katie Flood, Marti Malloy of Oak Harbor, who won an Olympic bronze in judo, and cyclist Jennie Reed of Issaquah, who won silver in London.
“This is a real surprise — I’m honored,” said Whipple, who was nominated twice before without winning. “The UW taught me to win and to not be afraid of winning.”
Couple of the night was undoubtedly former UW athletes Hope Solo and Jerramy Stevens. A former Star of the Year winner, Solo is an Olympic gold medalist soccer goalie whose marriage to Stevens, a Huskies football star and No. 1 draft pick of the Seahawks, raised eyebrows, especially after police were called to their home the night before their October wedding to break up a fracas. Stevens was arrested but not charged.
Asked whether he considered dating Solo in college, Stevens said, “We’ve always had a mutual respect.” Asked the same question, Solo said, “I had a crush on him in college, of course.”
Martinez, recipient of the Royal Brougham Legends Award, recalled his first glimpse of Seattle in 1982 as a teen-aged international free-agent signee from Puerto Rico.
“I remember driving up I-5 and seeing the Kingdome for the first time,” he said, “wondering if I’d ever play in it.”
Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer, who earned the Executive of the Year award, offered a forecast for his Seahawks colleague.
“A final shout-out to (GM) John Schneider, who could have been up there tonight,” Hanauer said. “My prediction is he will be up here next year.”