Whatley receives Johnny Bench Award as nation’s top catcher

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ORU Sports
Scott Slarks, Director of Media Relations

WICHITA, Kan. – Oral Roberts baseball’s Matt Whatley was honored as the 2017 Johnny Bench Award presented by BaseballSavings.com winner Thursday night given to the nation’s best collegiate catcher during the 20th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet.

Whatley, a third-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers with the 104th overall selection in 2017, adds the crowning achievement to a brilliant career at ORU as the first Golden Eagle to win the prestigious award. He was one of 114 catchers named to the initial Johnny Bench Award watch list back in early March before landing a spot as one of three finalists, along with David Banuelos from Long Beach State and Brent Diaz of Louisiana Tech.

The junior earned ABCA/Rawlings All-Midwest Region Second Team honors for the third-consecutive year, and was a three-time All-Summit League honoree. He started all 59 games this season and threw out 43 percent of potential base stealers from behind the plate. Whatley also posted a .302 batting average with 22 extra-base hits, 49 RBI and drew 50 walks, the most in a single season since Ben Petralli in 2008.

A native of Claremore, Oklahoma, Whatley made 165 appearances for the Golden Eagles during his three seasons and ranks sixth in program history drawing 115 walks. He posted a .340 batting average totaling 67 extra-base hits, 143 runs and 134 RBI. He also was a two-time Academic All-Summit League Team selection.

Whatley made his professional baseball debut June 26 playing for the AZL Rangers in the Arizona League totaling a hit, walk and two runs scored.

All-Time Winners
2000 – Brad Cresse, LSU
2001 – Kelly Shoppach, Baylor
2002 – Jeremy Brown, Alabama
2003 – Ryan Carko, Stanford
2004 – Kurt Suzuki, Cal State Fullerton
2005 – Jeff Clement, USC
2006 – Jake Smith, East Carolina
2007 – Ed Easley, Mississippi State
2008 – Buster Posey, Florida
2009 – J.T. Wise, Oklahoma
2010 – Bryan Holaday, Texas Christian
2011 – Jake Lowery, James Madison
2012 – Mike Zunino, Florida
2013 – Stuart Turner, Ole Miss
2014 – Max Pentecost, Kennesaw State
2015 – Garrett Stubbs, USC
2016 – Zack Collins, Miami
2017 – Matt Whatley, Oral Roberts