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09/23/10 10:20 PM ET

Carroll honored with Campanella Award

LOS ANGELES -- When Jamey Carroll was selecting his jersey number before the season, he saw that No. 14 was still available. Most have the same reaction: That was the number Gil Hodges wore -- how is it not retired?

The answer is because Hodges isn't in the Hall of Fame. Whether that's right or wrong has been debated before, but that wasn't really Carroll's concern. It meant he had a chance to wear Hodges' number in a Dodgers uniform, and he jumped at it.

Carroll grew up in Newburgh, Ind., just outside of Evansville, Ind., and less than an hour away from Petersburg, Ind.

Petersburg is where Hodges grew up.

"My dad grew up a Gil Hodges fan," Carroll said. "I have an understanding of what this organization is all about."

In his first year with the Dodgers, Carroll showed that understanding on the field every day. More than anyone on the team this season, Carroll stood out for his hustle, leadership and willingness to do whatever was asked.

At home plate at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, Carroll was honored with perhaps the highest award the team can bestow, the Roy Campanella Award. The fifth annual recipient, Carroll was chosen near unanimously by Dodgers uniform personnel as the player who best exemplified the spirit and leadership of the late Hall of Fame catcher.

"Especially being a utility player, nobody ever knows what you're doing or where you're going," Carroll said. "I'm honored."

Campanella became a Hall of Famer and a three-time National League MVP for the Brooklyn Dodgers after beginning his career in the Negro Leagues. He never got a chance to play in Los Angeles because of a car accident on Jan. 29, 1958, just as the Dodgers were making final preparations for their move. Campanella was paralyzed from the neck down.

"I was on the same team with Campanella; I saw the way he played the game and the attitude that he had," Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda said. "All the years that he was in this [wheelchair], I never heard that man complain one time."

Campanella, too, was a teammate of Hodges. They played in an age that, to Carroll, truly epitomized baseball, and he was humbled to not only be associated with Campanella's legacy, but to have been given that honor by his peers.

"When the opportunity came to put this jersey on, I was extremely thankful," said Carroll, 36. "To stand up here and have my name somewhat a little bit associated with this man is an extreme honor. I'm very grateful for my teammates. When I walk away from the game, I want to be remember as a guy who left it all out there."

This is only Carroll's first season in Los Angeles. He entered Thursday hitting .292 with 48 runs scored and a team-leading .380 on-base percentage in 130 games. He's played 68 games at shortstop, 45 at second base, 11 at third and five in left field. He has just six errors.

Carroll was presented the award by Campanella's daughter, Joni Campanella Roan. The ceremony coincided with the announcement of a long-term partnership between the Dodgers Dream Foundation, California State University, Northridge and the Campanella family that will ensure the legacy of the Hall of Famer catcher for years to come.

The Dodgers Dream Foundation will make an annual financial contribution to support the Roy and Roxie Campanella Physical Therapy Scholarship Endowment at Northridge, while also providing an internship opportunity within the Dodgers' medical department each season for a student from the university's physical therapy program.

"Our students have a determination that is so elegantly exemplified by Roy Campanella," said Sylvia Alva, dean of Northridge's College of Health and Human Development.

The Dodgers already have seen the talent that can come out of Northridge's physical therapy program. Team trainer Stan Conte earned his undergraduate degree there in 1978, and he received his doctorate from Boston University earlier this year.

"It's a really great honor to be involved in formalizing this kind of program to allow physical therapy students to get clinical and practical applications in professional baseball," Conte said. "It's fascinating to me that when I joined another Major League team in 1993, physical therapists were never really talked about as being part of the medical staff."

Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.