Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India won the National League Rookie of the Year Award on Monday night, becoming the first Red in 22 years and the eighth player in franchise history to earn the honor.
India, 24, beat out St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson and Miami Marlins pitcher Trevor Rogers, the other two finalists. The award was announced on the MLB Network by Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench, who became the fourth Red to win the Rookie of the Year Award in 1968.
Just prior to announcing India’s name, Bench pulled on a Reds cap and said he was giving the award to “a man I was so impressed by the entire year.”
Added Bench, “It is unbelievable the way this young man played. I was so proud of him. You deserve it, my friend.”
Hearing Bench announce his name made the moment extra special for India, who was filmed watching the presentation live from his home with his family, friends and agents behind him.
“To have him announce my name, a legend like that, it’s the coolest thing ever,” India said in a Zoom interview with Cincinnati reporters. “When he put the hat on, that a pretty cool moment. I will always remember that.”
The other Reds who have won the Rookie of the Year Award are: Frank Robinson (1956); Pete Rose (1963); Tommy Helms (1966); Pat Zachry (1976); Chris Sabo (1988); and Scott Williamson (1999).
India made his debut on Opening Day and went 2-for-4. He made the team in spring training despite not playing the previous season except at the alternate training site in Mason because the minor league season was cancelled by the pandemic. He played the majority of his first season in 2018 with the Single-A Dayton Dragons and was promoted to Double-A Chattanooga in the second half of the 2019 season after starting the year with the Single-A Daytona Tortugas.
“I did a lot at the alternate site to help me to be in this position,” India said on the MLB Network. “Just working on my craft every day there, I put my head down and grinded. That’s what I did to put myself in a good spot for this year and to just carry that momentum over.”
Here’s why India, the fifth overall pick in the 2018 draft, won:
• India led NL rookies with 69 RBIs, ranked second in home runs and hit .269 with a .376 on-base percentage.
• India led the Reds in games played (150), runs scored (98) and stolen bases (12) and was hit by a pitch 21 times, leading all of baseball in that category.
• India ranked fifth in the league in on-base percentage, falling short of becoming only the third rookie in big-league history to lead his league in that category. It hasn’t been done since 1926.
India was the favorite to win the award but said he had butterflies in his stomach during the announcement.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said. “I told (the media) at the beginning I was going to win this award. I put it in words, and I made it come true. So for me, it’s just a huge accomplishment to make this come true.”