Ka’iana Eldredge (Kansas) and Blair DeBord (Kansas State) have been named to the 2014 Johnny Bench Award Watch List, the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission announced. The award is given annually to the nation’s top Division I catcher.
Eldredge and DeBord are two of 72 catchers nationwide named to this year’s initial watch list. The list will be updated to include other candidates through May 5.
A native of Manhattan and product of Manhattan High School, DeBord was named a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award last season after batting .327 with 12 extra-base hits and 37 RBI while also helping the Wildcat pitching staff post its lowest ERA (3.92) in program history during the aluminum-bat era (since 1977). He was K-State’s starting catcher in 60 of the Wildcats’ 64 games in 2013.
Since his freshman season with K-State in 2010, DeBord has played in 169 games in a Wildcat uniform, batting .295 (162-for-549) with 32 doubles and 88 RBI. He is tied for third in K-State history with 34 career hit by pitches.
Eldredge is a career .233 batter, but has a .407 average in nine games this season. He has started 149 games during his career as Jayhawk with a .972 career fielding percentage. The Honolulu, Hawaii, product has played in 40 games every year of his career at KU.
Two Big 12 catchers have claimed the Johnny Bench Award - Oklahoma’s J.T. Wise (2009) and Baylor’s Kelly Shoppach (2001).
The watch list will be narrowed down to the semifinalists, whom will be announced May 15. Ballots will be sent to the national voting panel at the end of May for a vote to determine the three finalists. The finalists will be announced June 3. A final vote among the national committee will occur during the College World Series. All finalists will be brought to Wichita and the winner will be announced at the 17th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet on June 26.