BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 02/03/2020

Star of Year to honor Schneider, Mentink, O’Brien

The 85th annual MTR Western Sports Star of the Year is Thursday at the Westin Seattle hotel. This year’s emcee is former U.S. Winter Olympics star Apolo Anton Ohno.

A year ago, Gary Payton fired up the crowd on behalf of Sue Bird, recipient of the Royal Brougham Legends Award at Sports Star of the Year. / Joe Towner, Sportspress Northwest

 Seattle’s best annual sports party is back for the 85th time.

The MTR Western Sports Star of the Year, the longest-running event of its kind in the U.S.,  is Thursday at the Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle. The Seattle Sports Commission puts on a fast-paced evening of humor, poignance and video action to remember and celebrate who did what in 2019. Reception and silent auction begins at 5:30 p.m., dinner and program at 7:30.

Begun by Seattle Post-Intelligencer editor and columnist Royal Brougham in 1936, the event has celebrated achievements in Washington sports for nine decades. The event features a pre-show reception and silent auction, where guests are invited to mingle and bid with the Seattle sports community. The reception is followed by a live awards show with dinner.

This year’s emcee is retired U.S. Olympic short-track speedskater and Seattle native Apolo Anton Ohno, America’s most decorated Winter Olympian with two golds, two silvers and four bronze medals. In 2019, he was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.

Honorees for four standing awards already have been selected by an SSC committee. Three categories were up for a public online vote that closed Friday.

The Wayne Gittinger Inspirational Youth Award winner is Issaquah High School soccer star Claudia Longo, persevering in her fight against multiple sclerosis.

The Keith Jackson Award, honoring media excellence, goes to Fox Sports Northwest anchor Angie Mentink.

Longtime Seattle sports figure Johnny O’Brien, a Seattle University All-America hoopster in the 1950s who also had a six-year career in Major League Baseball, will receive the Royal Brougham Legends Award for lifetime achievement.

The Paul G. Allen Award honors philanthropic work. The honorees are Seahawks general manager John Schneider and his wife, Traci, who raise funds and awareness for young people with autism.

To be revealed Thursday are the winners of three annual awards voted on by the public:

FEMALE SPORTS STAR OF THE YEAR

  • Kara Bajema, University of Washington volleyball
  • Bethany Balcer, Seattle Reign FC
  • Sis Bates, University of Washington softball
  • Nevin Harrison, Gig Harbor canoe and kayak / Tokyo 2020 Olympian
  • Natasha Howard, Seattle Storm
  • Morgan Weaver, Washington State University soccer star

    MALE SPORTS STAR OF THE YEAR

  • Blake Bodily, University of Washington soccer
  • Max Borghi, Washington State University football
  • Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga basketball
  • Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
  • Raul Ruidiaz, Seattle Sounders FC
  • Matisse Thybulle, University of Washington basketball

    SPORTS STORY OF THE YEAR

  • Megan Rapinoe leads USWNT to World Cup soccer triumph and wins top player award
  • Seattle Seahawks 2019 playoff run
  • Seattle Seawolves win back-to-back Major League Rugby championships
  • Seattle Sounders FC win Major League Soccer Cup, second in four years
  • University of Washington women’s crews sweep NCAA championships

Here are details on the four honorees selected by an SSC committee, composed of business and civic leaders, team and school representatives, journalists and historians.

WAYNE GITTINGER INSPIRATIONAL YOUTH AWARD

Given to an inspirational young athlete who has overcome major medical obstacles to inspire others

Claudia Longo

The Issaquah High School soccer star was a prep All-America on her way to play for the University of Washington when she was blindsided by a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Temporarily sidelined as a Husky, she has battled the illness with characteristic determination, inspiring those around her by refusing to let MS define her.

KEITH JACKSON AWARD

Given to a member of the media for excellence in communicating the sports stories of our state

Angie Mentink

The first softball All-America selection at the University of Washington, where she was inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame in 2001, Angie Mentink became a pioneer among female broadcasters with her high-profile career at Root Sports Northwest regional sports network.

After a playing career with the Colorado Silver Bullets, the first women’s pro softball team in the U.S., Mentink joined Root (then Fox Sports) as an intern and rose from pre-game reporter to Emmy-winning co-anchor of Mariners Live and Mariners All-Access. Mentink is one of the featured personalities on live events and pre-recorded programs throughout the sports year, including the Mariners and Seahawks magazine shows.

In 2017, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After treatment, she is cancer-free.

ROYAL BROUGHAM AWARD

Given to an individual for a lifetime of achievement in sports and who exemplifies the spirit of our state

Johnny O’Brien

A first-team basketball All-America selection as a 5-foot-9 center at Seattle University, New Jersey native Johnny O’Brien set the school scoring record in three seasons that remains today. In 1952, playing alongside his twin brother, Eddie, he was the first college player to score more than 1,000 points in a season. That season, Johnny scored 43 points in an 84-81 upset of the Harlem Globetrotters, who then played serious basketball.

O’Brien was a better baseball player. He had a six-year MLB career with Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Milwaukee.  He was a .250 hitter with four homers and 59 RBI in 339 games.  From 1956-58, he doubled as a pitcher, appearing in 25 games and 61 innings, surrendering 61 hits, walking 30 and striking out 35 with an ERA of 5.61. While in Pittsburgh, Johnny and Eddie became the first twins in major league history to play for the same team in the same game.

Among numerous positions he held post-sports career, he was the head of security, sales and promotions at the Kingdome.

PAUL G. ALLEN AWARD

Given to an individual who has made a significant or compelling philanthropic contribution

John and Traci Schneider

Helping young adults with autism is the non-football passion of Seahawks general manager and executive vice president John Schneider and his wife, Traci. Their eldest son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism at age 3. They began a journey to help other families similarly affected. In 2012, they established the non-profit Ben’s Fund to helped raise money and awareness. The fund raised more than $4.35 million, helping Washington families support children after diagnosis.

A native of Wisconsin, Schneider was hired along with coach Pete Carroll in January 2010 and has helped lead he Seahawks to eight playoff appearances in their 10 seasons together, with a Super Bowl win following the 2013 season.

Tickets available

Tickets to the show can be purchased online, as either a table ticket package or individual reserved seats, at sportsstaroftheyear.org.

The Seattle Sports Commission is committed to making Seattle a world-class sports community by creating opportunities that bring the world to the Pacific Northwest. By fostering a strong sports culture, the SSC seeks to strengthen businesses, foster generational engagement in athletics and bolster pride in our communities. Go to seattlesports.org to learn more about the SSC, a division of Visit Seattle.


YourThoughts

  • Kirkland

    If Rapinoe wasn’t injured for much of the NWSL seasons, she would also be in the Female Star of the Year category as well as Sports Story of the Year. As it is, the Reign’s Bethany Balcer is a great nominee, as she went from an NAIA school to one of the best rookies in the league.

    • art thiel

      I think Rapinoe won it previously, and the event has a no-repeat rule, but your point is well-taken.

      • Husky73

        Has Heather Tarr ever been nominated?

  • Husky73

    Glad to see Angie Mentink recognized. She’s the nicest, coolest and a real pro. She’s also a great mom.

    • art thiel

      On her behalf, thanks for the kind words.

      • Husky73

        My kids grew up with her husband and his brothers.

  • jafabian

    Awesome to see Angie honored. She has become a welcome fixture in the Seattle Sports Scene. Also well deserved honor for the Schneider’s who have supported their cause in autism awareness since their arrival. I hope the Lenny Wilkens Foundation will be recognized for their work with children’s charities. It’s my understanding that they ended their operations last year.

  • 1coolguy

    Just went to buy tickets online and it said sales were closed 2/2/20. Bummer.
    Are they sold out or are tickets available via another means?

    • art thiel

      Online is the only way, but I didn’t know it was a sellout. There’s a general phone number at Visit Seattle that may be able to help: 206.461.5800.

      Also check the link at seattlesports.org

  • Archangelo Spumoni

    Looking forward to Mr. Art’s attendance at tonight’s dinner and virtual metaphysical certitude exists that memorable, possibly zinger prose will be a result.