ST. PETERSBURG — 3B Evan Longoria thought of Don Zimmer as he shaved Friday morning. Soot Zimmer had told her late husband she preferred Longoria without facial hair.
Longoria saw Soot a few hours later when she presented him with the Don Zimmer Award as the Rays MVP for this season. The presentation was at the annual end-of-season Clutch Hitters Luncheon at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront.
"Every time I look at her I see Zim in her," Longoria said.
Longoria has often talked about Zimmer's influence on his career. The two often played cards together before games.
"I loved Don. He meant a lot to me," Longoria said. "Receiving an award in his name is a tremendous honor."
Longoria also received the Paul C. Smith Champion Award, given to the Ray who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field. The award is named after Smith, the former sports editor of the Tampa Tribune who passed away in 2005 while covering the Rays for MLB.com.
LHP Blake Snell was named the Rays rookie of the year.
The awards were voted on by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Longoria was the unanimous winner for MVP. He entered Friday's game against the visiting Red Sox leading the team in batting (.279), home runs (a career-high 36) and RBIs (95).
Longoria said his success this season is due in part to his willingness to change from his routine last offseason to widening stance at the plate in May.
"I don't think any of us ever look to make changes," Longoria said. "I think change kind of finds you."
TOP MINOR LEAGUERS: 1B Casey Gillaspie was named the Rays' minor league player of the year, and RHP Brent Honeywell was named the organization's minor league pitcher of the year. OF Zac Law received the Erik Walker Community Champion.
Gillaspie hit .284 with 18 home runs and 64 RBIs while splitting his season between Montgomery and Durham.
"I feel very honored that they chose me for this award," Gillaspie said. "You look at our organization, there are so many young players and great players that we have."
Honeywell was 7-3 with an organization-best 2.34 ERA while pitching at both Charlotte and Montgomery.
"It's an honor," Honeywell said. "I can't thank 'em enough just because they put a lot of time and effort in me and I give 'em everything I got."
MINOR-LEAGUE AWARDS: Team MVPs were: RH Austin Pruitt (Triple-A Durham), 1B/OF Jake Bauers (Double-A Montgomery), RH Greg Harris (High A Charlotte), INF Michael Russell (Low A Bowling Green), LH Travis Ott, (Short season A Hudson Valley), OF Eleardo Cabrera (rookie league Princeton), OF Jesus Sanchez (GCL Rays), C Ronaldo Hernandez (Dominican Summer League Rays 1) and OF Sabriel Polanco (Dominican Summer League Rays 2).
OF Jake Fraley won the baserunner of the year award, RH Joe Serrapica was reliever of the year and C Nick Ciuffo was defensive player of the year.
NOTEWORTHY: RF Steven Souza Jr. (hip surgery) said he should be cleared to resume baseball activities by Jan. 1 and expects to be ready for spring training … 1B/DH Logan Morrison said his wrist surgery has been rescheduled for Oct. 4 … The Rays celebrated Roberto Clemente Day on Friday as part of Hispanic Heritage Night.