Former Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard was selected as the recipient of the 2020 Tony Conigliaro Award, the Red Sox announced Monday. The award has been given every year since 1990 to a player who has overcome “adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination, and courage that were trademarks of Tony C.”
Bard, who played for the Rockies last season after not pitching in the majors from 2014 through 2019, certainly dealt with his share of adversity.
The Red Sox selected Bard in the first round in 2006 out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and he made his major-league debut in 2009. He made an immediate impact as one of the Sox’ best relievers, and in his first three seasons had a combined 2.88 ERA, 1.056 WHIP, and struck out 213 batters in 197 innings.
But in 2012, the same year he attempted to become a starting pitcher and made 10 starts, Bard developed the yips, which essentially is the inexplicable inability to command the baseball. Bard had a 6.22 ERA in 2012 and pitched just an inning in 2013, which turned out to be his last time in a major league uniform before 2020.
This season, Bard rediscovered his control and earned an opportunity with Colorado. Bard made the most of it, turning in a 3.67 ERA in 24 ⅔ innings with 27 strikeouts. After being out of the majors for more than six years and out of baseball since 2017, Bard finally found a path toward redemption.
“From my days playing in Boston, I remember how special this award is,” Bard said in a team news release. “Not only because of Tony’s story and the incredible obstacles he had to overcome, but I also remember the list of names of all the great players who have won previously. I am grateful to those who voted for me and to the New England baseball community for their support over the years. I am honored to be chosen as this year’s recipient.”
After Bard announced his retirement from baseball, he became a mental skills coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks during the 2018-19 season. By helping others, Bard found that it served as his own form of therapy. In February, Bard announced he would attempt a comeback and signed a minor-league deal with the Rockies. In July, the Rockies announced they would add Bard to the 40-man roster.
He made his Rockies debut on July 25 and pitched an inning and a third to earn a victory over the Rangers. Bard will return to the Rockies next season after the two sides avoided arbitration, agreeing to a deal close to $3 million for 2021.
Tony Conigliaro Award recipients
2020 — Daniel Bard, Rockies
2019 — Rich Hill, Dodgers
2018 — Stephen Piscotty, Athletics
2017 — Chad Bettis, Rockies
2016 — Yangervis Solarte, Padres
2015 — Mitch Harris, Cardinals
2014 — Wilson Ramos, Nationals
2013—John Lackey, Red Sox
2012 — R.A. Dickey, Mets
2011 — Tony Campana, Cubs
2010—Joaquin Benoit, Rays
2009 — Chris Carpenter, Cardinals
2008 — Rocco Baldelli, Rays
2007 — Jon Lester, Red Sox
2006 — Freddy Sanchez, Pirates
2005 — Aaron Cook, Rockies
2004 — Dewon Brazelton, Rays
2003 — Jim Mecir, Athletics
2002 — Jose Rijo, Reds
2001 — Jason Johnson, Orioles; Graeme Lloyd, Expos
2000 — Kent Mercker, Angels; Tony Saunders, Marlins
1999 — Mike Lowell, Marlins
1998 — Bret Saberhagen, Red Sox
1997 — Eric Davis, Orioles
1996 — Curtis Pride, Tigers
1995 — Scott Radinsky, White Sox
1994 — Mark Leiter, Angels
1993 — Bo Jackson, White Sox
1992 — Jim Abbott, Angels
1991 — Dickie Thon, Phillies
1990 — Jim Eisenreich, Royals