The Dapper Dan Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year have one big thing in common: adversity.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen signed a big contract before the start of the 2012 season. But, after a disastrous end to the 2011 season, in which McCutchen hit .216 in the second half, some openly wondered whether he was worthy of such a deal.
Penn State soccer player Taylor Schram sustained a concussion in November 2011 that kept her out of action until May and made her wonder if her career was finished.
Both athletes bounced back and will be honored at the 77th Annual Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction, presented by BNY Mellon Feb. 6 at David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Steelers great Hines Ward will be honored with the lifetime achievement award at the event.
"It's an honor to be named the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year. So many incredible athletes have won this award, including 18 in the Pirates organization," McCutchen said. "To be mentioned alongside these greats is humbling for me, and I am truly thankful of the support that I have received so far in my career in Pittsburgh."
McCutchen finished third in National League MVP voting after hitting .327 with a .400 on-base percentage and .533 slugging percentage. He led the National League with 194 hits and pounded a career-high 31 home runs.
Schram, a 2010 Canon-McMillan High School graduate, helped the Nittany Lions advance to the NCAA national championship game, where she scored the team's lone goal in a loss. And she was a member of the United States Under-20 women's national team, which won the World Cup in Japan.
"I was completely shocked and honored to just be nominated for it with the tremendous athletes that had been nominated in the past, and this year as well," Schram said. "It means everything to me [to be named sportswoman of the year]. I've worked really hard my entire life."
McCutchen, 26, was named an NL All-Star for a second consecutive season and would have been a stronger MVP candidate had the Pirates maintained their early season success and reached the postseason. But the speedy center fielder was the biggest reason the team was in that position in the first place.
After finishing 2011 on a down note, McCutchen undertook a rigorous offseason training program to make him a better player. As a result, he emerged as a star.
Schram, 20, sustained a concussion in the 2011 NCAA tournament. The initial prognosis was positive, and she did not expect to miss much time. But symptoms lingered for months.
"The first half of the year was not looking good for me," she said. "I didn't know if I was ever going to play again."
But she was cleared to play in May, and, two months later, earned a spot on the 21-player U-20 national team. That team recovered from a lackluster performance in pool play to win the championship.
That tournament kept Schram away from Penn State soccer until October. But, once she returned, she helped lead the Nittany Lions to the College Cup, the final four of college soccer. In the national title game, she scored an equalizing goal in the first half as the Lions lost, 4-1, to North Carolina.
"For me, the big picture is we came up short," Schram said. "We lost. That's all I can really think about."
So, after a brief break for the holidays, Schram soon will pick up her training with hopes of leading the Nittany Lions back to the College Cup next season.
Tickets for the sports dinner and auction can be purchased by visiting www.post-gazette.com/dapperdan or by calling 412-263-3850. Prices are $150 for general seats and $250 for premium seats. Tables of 10 can be reserved for $1,500 and premium tables of 10 can be reserved for $2,500.mobilehome - pirates - psusports
Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 or on Twitter: @msanserino.