By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants added to a career's worth of accomplishments by winning the National League Most Valuable Player award on Thursday in just his third season.
Yet the humble, 25-year-old catcher said what he took away from the 2012 season was a heartfelt appreciation just to be able to play.
Posey had the highest batting average in the major leagues at .336 and pounded 24 homers while driving in 103 to win MLB's top individual award following a 2011 season that ended for him after only 45 games in a devastating collision at home plate.
"I do know that I definitely have a deeper appreciation for being able to play baseball," said Posey, who suffered a broken leg and torn ligaments in his ankle while trying to block home on a play at the plate.
"I've seen that it can be taken away quick," he told reporters in a conference call. "Hopefully I can continue to embrace the game and enjoy it, regardless of outcomes and how you do. Just try to appreciate each minute you're out there."
Posey has thrived in his brief major league time on the diamond.
He came up in May of 2010 and helped the Giants win a World Series and claim Rookie of the Year honors in the process.
This season he won his second World Series in three years, was a runaway winner of the Comeback Player of the Year award, and on Thursday became the first catcher in 40 years to win the NL MVP following Johnny Bench of the Cincinnati Reds in 1972.
"I think I've been fortunate to play with some really good players and play on some really good teams," the soft-spoken Georgia native said.
One thing Posey is proud of is playing catcher.
He was determined to get back behind the plate even when it was thought he might be shifted to first base or another less physically demanding position in coming back from his injuries.
"I think it's a position that to start playing it in the first place you have to love it," said Posey.
"There's something about being back there behind the plate and working with your pitchers. For me, especially, having such a good staff in San Francisco...I wanted another opportunity to work with those guys.
"I'm glad I did. It didn't take long once I was able to get back in a crouch again to get that same feeling and remember how much I enjoy doing it."
Posey became just the third catcher to win both the rookie award and an MVP, following Bench and Thurman Munson of the New York Yankees.
He also became just the third Giants player to achieve that double, following Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Willie McCovey.
"Just to hear my name mentioned with those guys doesn't seem real," Posey said. "I have such a huge amount of respect for what all of those guys have accomplished. To be able to mentioned alongside them means a great deal to me."
Posey garnered 27 of the 32 first-place votes in ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun (.319, 41 HR, 122 RBI, 105 runs), the 2011 MVP, was runner-up in the voting after receiving three first-place votes.
The other two-first place votes went to St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (.315, 22 HR, 76 RBI), who finished fourth behind Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (.327, 31 HR, 96 RBI) on the points list.
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)