The award, named for the founding director of the MLB Players Association, goes each year to the player whose on- and off-field performances most inspire others. Curtis Granderson was voted as the winner last year for his work helping schools in Michigan's inner cities.
Inge's work at Mott is a cause that hits home to the father of two, and was a big effort for him even before he and his family made their year-round home in nearby Saline, Mich. Inge and his wife, Shani, donated $100,000 out of his last contract to the hospital in 2007 to help fund a pediatric cancer infusion center, then held a naming contest rather than put their name on it. The Dugout won out.
Inge continues to be a frequent visitor to patients at the hospital. He drew some attention in 2009 for a young heart transplant patient named Tommy Shomaker, who wrote his autograph on Inge's right arm in hopes it would get on TV. Inge hit a home run that night. Inge had a similar autograph on his arm from a terminal cancer patient when he homered later in the season.
Inge has also lent his work to other causes. He and a host of teammates helped host a charity auction this past summer in Saline to help raise money for a team of participants in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk for breast cancer research.
On the field, Inge batted .247 with 28 doubles, 13 home runs and 70 RBIs in 144 games this season, while missing two weeks to a fractured hand. His .977 fielding percentage led all American League players with at least 100 starts at third base, and his 2.83 Range Factor (putouts plus assists per nine innings) ranked second. His nine errors were by far his low mark for any season as a regular third baseman. His zone rating and other specialized statistics have put him above average at his position.
This year, manager Jim Leyland took to saying he might be one of the best third basemen in the league. His character as one of the great people in the league was already known.
Inge's award includes a $50,000 grant from the MLB Players Trust, which raises funds and attention for issues affecting the needy and promotes community involvement.
The Tigers ended up as the only Major League team to have two players win Players Choice Awards this year. Austin Jackson was honored as the American League's Outstanding Rookie earlier in the week.