College Baseball: Bibona top of CLASS

Baseball All-American Danny Bibona, who twice earned Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year honors at UC Irvine, is the winner of the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, it was announced Friday.

The award, chosen by a nationwide vote of Division I baseball coaches, national media and fans, is given

annually to the most outstanding senior student-athlete in NCAA Division I baseball.

An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities. The award identifies personal qualities that define a complete student-athlete, with criteria including community service, excellence in the classroom, outstanding character and competition on the field.

"Winning an award that means as much as this one is more than a dream come true," Bibona, who chose not to sign after being drafted in the 16th round by the St. Louis Cardinals after the 2009 season, said in a statement. "Last year, I had an opportunity to leave college and pursue my dream of playing professional baseball. When I gave it some serious thought, I decided to come back to [UCI] and accomplish my other dream of earning my degree. I not only was able to accomplish that, but also was able to play my senior year for one of the best collegiate programs in the nation. The joy that one experiences by being a part of a team, especially a team with the kind of guys that we had, is something that can be cherished for life. John Wooden had a quote that is so perfect for my experience – 'The main ingredient to stardom is the rest of the team.' The camaraderie on this team was so special that I will have friendships that will last the rest of my life. This award is also theirs."

Bibona went 9-2 with a 2.48 earned-run average in 2010 and finished with 332 career strikeouts, a school record. UCI (39-21) advanced to the postseason for the fifth straight year. The Anteaters were eliminated by UCLA in the Los Angeles Regional earlier this month.

"Daniel Bibona embodies all of the qualities of the ultimate student-athlete," UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said. "He was an elite student and graduated with honors and has served his community in a variety of ways, including offering his time to the kids of the community and to children battling serious illness.

"All the things this award is supposed to represent, there is no quality Danny doesn't have," Gillespie said. "He's a fabulous student, a first-class teammate and his work ethic has been golden. He's one of those guys who has no enemies. There isn't anybody who knows him who does not like him. I wish I had 35 of those guys."

Bibona graduated this month with a degree in sociology and a 3.25 grade-point average. He was the 2010 Big West Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

In addition to being a regular visitor at the Children's Hospital of Orange County and coaching youth baseball, Bibona is a member of a non-profit organization called American Home Dream, which assists children with terminal illnesses.

Bibona was drafted in the eighth round by St. Louis on June 8.

— From staff reports

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