Doug Baldwin, Nelson Cruz, Luke Falk, Breanna Stewart and Chantel Osahor are just some of the names in contention for awards at the 83rd annual Sports Star of the Year celebration, this year Feb. 8 at the Grand Ballroom of the Seattle Sheraton hotel.
Sponsored by MTR Western and the Seattle Sports Commission, the Star of the Year is the longest continuing event of its kind in the nation. Online public voting began Monday for selection of the best seasons for male and female athletes, as well as the best story of the year.
Ballots are available at ssy.seattlesports.org.
The event honors some of Seattle’s most inspiring and iconic sports individuals, legends, media members and philanthropists. Annual winners have their names linked to an elite group that defines Seattle’s sports history.
Nominees for the three categories of public voting were selected by the Sports Star Committee, compiled of local historians, media and other members of the sports industry, and winners announced the evening of the event.
The committee has already selected winners for other awards, including the Royal Brougham Award for lifetime achievement, the Paul G. Allen Award for philanthropic contributions, the Keith Jackson Award for excellence in sports media, and the Wayne Gittinger Inspirational Youth Award for young athletes who overcome major medical obstacles to inspire others.
MALE STAR OF THE YEAR
Doug Baldwin, Seahawks: Made the Pro Bowl again after leading the team’s wide receivers in yards, receptions and touchdowns. Ranked among the top 100 players in player voting on NFL.com. Also active in creation in-season of a players’ fund that gave $1 million to community non-profit organizations advancing social causes.
Nelson Cruz, Mariners: He raked American League pitchers for a career-high 119 RBI, winning both the Edgar Martinez Award as MLB’s best designated hitter and his second Silver Slugger Award in three years. At 37, he also led the Mariners in home runs and on-base percentage.
Luke Falk, Washington State football: Senior quarterback became the Pac-12 Conference career record holder for total offense, touchdown passes and passing yards. He led the conference this season with 30 touchdown passes. After arriving at WSU as a walk-on, he leaves as the most decorated and winningest QB in school history.
Stefan Frei, Sounders: Goalkeeper led MLS with 13 shutouts, shattering Kasey Keller’s team record. Following on his 2016 MLS Cup MVP performance, he allowed only 36 goals in 33 games and was leader of a back line that rode a string of six straight shutouts to return the Sounders to the MLS Cup.
Dante Pettis, Washington football: Senior was the Huskies’ leading receiver and a consensus All-America punt returner after setting an NCAA career record with his ninth touchdown, four in 2017. That tied the conference single-season record and made him the Pac-12’s all-time leading punt returner.
FEMALE STAR OF THE YEAR
Ali Aguilar, Washington softball: Senior shortstop earned All-America and All-Pac-12 honors after leading the Huskies to the semifinals of the Women’s College World Series and a 50-14 record. She topped the team in home runs and runs scored, and finished her career with the most runs in school history.
Jessica Fishlock, Reign soccer: The midfielder was named to the National Women’s Soccer League Best XI and scored seven goals – one shy of her career best — despite missing four games with a knee injury. The co-captain from Wales reached 100 NWSL appearances and twice was the league’s player of the month.
Taylor Mims, Washington State volleyball: Junior outside hitter earned first-team All Pac-12 honors and led the Cougars to a first-round NCAA win with a career night: 28 kills, 22 digs and a school-record 79 attacks. She was named to the all-tourney team for the gold-medal-winning U.S. Collegiate National Team/Europe.
Amy-Eloise Neal, Washington cross-country: Made a dramatic surge to finish second in the NCAA championships. That made her a five-time All-America selection – twice in cross country, twice in track’s 1,500 meters and once in the mile. As a junior she also claimed Pac-12 and regional cross-country titles.
Chantel Osahor, Washington basketball: Senior forward/center led the nation in both rebounding and double-doubles. Her career highlights included setting a Pac-12 record with 30 rebounds against WSU and breaking the Huskies’ career rebounding record. As a junior she was a regional MVP en route to the Final Four.
Breanna Stewart, Storm basketball: Forward improved on her rookie of the year season, finishing second in WNBA scoring while raising both her field-goal and three-point shooting percentages. She set a club record by topping 20 points in 21 of 33 games, and also was sixth in the league in rebounding.
STORY OF THE YEAR
Gonzaga reaches the Final Four: The Bulldogs had their best men’s basketball season, winning the first 29 games, the West Coast Conference title and five games in the NCAA tournament before falling to North Carolina in the title game. Gonzaga’s first Final Four appearance was also the first by any of the state’s men’s teams since Seattle University in 1958.
Huskies top both basketball drafts: The University of Washington became the first school to produce the top pick in both the NBA and WNBA drafts in the same year, with Kelsey Plum going to the San Antonio Stars and Markelle Fultz to the Philadelphia 76ers. Plum led the nation in scoring, while Fultz topped the Pac-12.
Seattle adopts an arena plan for hockey/basketball: The Seattle City Council approved a memorandum of understanding allowing Tim Leiweke’s Oak View Group to proceed with its proposed $600 million renovation of KeyArena. The deal clears the way for a National Hockey League expansion team perhaps as soon as 2020 and keeps alive hopes for an eventual return by the NBA.
Two women’s college crews win national titles: The University of Washington and Western Washington University women’s crews both won national championships. It was the first NCAA title in six years for the Division II Vikings and the first in 16 years for the Division I Huskies, who were the first team ever to sweep all three grand finals.
Sounders make MLS Cup Finals again: The Sounders overcame injuries and a slow start to win the Western Conference championship and earn a return trip to the MLS Cup championship. They reached the final by posting six shutouts in a row and outscoring their opponents 7-0 in the playoffs before losing the title rematch in Toronto.
WNBA All-Star Game rocks Seattle: Seattle’s first pro basketball all-star event since the NBA game in 1987 drew a fired-up KeyArena crowd of 15,221, including a host of local legends. It not only was a win for the West, including the Storm’s Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, but also the city, showing its deep love of hoops.