HOUSTON -- Talk to his teammates and heart and hustle will be two words at the top of the list to describe Astros center fielder Brandon Barnes.
Now he has an award to prove it.
Barnes was selected as the Astros' recipient of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association's Heart & Hustle Award. Created by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association in 2005, the Heart & Hustle Award is voted on by alumni and active Major League players and is presented annually to an active player who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game.
That description fits Barnes perfectly, as the rookie is an active participant in Astros charities, an outspoken Christian and never shies away from laying out for ball on the Minute Maid turf.
"When I found out, it was amazing, because that's what I try to display every day," Barnes said. "Playing hard and just doing things off the field to help others. Be a professional on and off the field. That's what I try to do.
"This is a huge award. It's not an American League Rookie of the Year Award or MVP, but I think this award means more to me than those would."
The award was chosen by an alumni players committee with close ties to the team. Such is the case for all 30 representatives.
When the season's over, all active players and members of the alumni committees will vote on one final winner, with the recipient being recognized on Nov. 19, 2013, at the 14th Annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York City.
"He received my nomination," said manager Bo Porter. "He stands for exactly what the award is about. He's a lunch-pail guy. He plays the game the way it's supposed to be played."
Barnes has become a walking (or diving) highlight reel in center, becoming a potential Gold Glove candidate with his range and all-out style. That's made him a fan favorite in Houston, despite his .242 batting average and 24 RBIs. He provided one of the highlights during another dreary season for the Astros when he hit for the cycle against Seattle on July 19.
Past overall winners of the award include Albert Pujols, Roy Halladay, Mike Trout, Torii Hunter and former Astros great Craig Biggio.
"It's great to be potentially among names like that," Barnes said. "I never forget it's a great opportunity to come out here and play baseball every day. I have no choice but to play hard.
"For your peers and MLB to honor you with this is total validation for how hard I play."
Chris Abshire is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.