TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Former University of Alabama outfielder Kent Matthes was named the 2011 California League Most Valuable Player on Wednesday. Along with Matthes, former UA shortstop Josh Rutledge, a teammate of Matthes in Tuscaloosa and currently with the Modesto Nuts, was a first team California League Postseason All-Star Team selection.
An outfielder for the Colorado Rockies Class AA Modesto Nuts, Matthes is the first Nuts player to win the MVP award since Brian Stavisky in 2004. As the Nuts make a playoff run, Matthes will watch from the sidelines after a broken hand on Aug. 3, ended his 2011 season.
"This was very unexpected but also a pleasant surprise," Matthes told the Modesto Bee. "I was so bummed about being hurt and not being able to finish the season, and now the Nuts are doing well and planning a playoff run and I wish I could be a part of that. Awards like this are great but they're not why you play the game."
Matthes hit .334 with a Nuts record 23 homers and 95 RBIs before his injury, but seemed to be saving his best for the stretch run. In 37 games after the All-Star Game he hit .368 with 13 homers and 49 RBIs, and drove in 21 runs in his final eight games with Modesto. Despite not playing since Aug. 3, Matthes still ranks in the top five in batting average, home runs, RBI and doubles.
In addition to Matthes, former Alabama shortstop Josh Rutledge was named to the California League Post-Season All-Star Team. Rutledge earned top shortstop honors following an outstanding second half of the season. Rutledge hit .412 in the second half of the season and a season average of .346 - good for second in the California League. During the month of July, he hit .448 with 45 RBI in 28 games, and had a Modesto Nuts record 27-game hitting streak.
Already clinching a playoff spot, the Modesto Nuts have five regular season games remaining before starting the postseason. The California League playoffs begin on Wednesday, Sept. 7, and the Nuts open against the Stockton Ports in a best of three series. To follow the progress fans can log onto california.league.milb.com.