SAN JOSE -- On Thursday afternoon, Buster Posey was named the Most Valuable Player in the National League. This came as a stunning surprise to almost nobody.

Probably not even to Posey. He claimed to be grasping for his thoughts upon hearing the news, but then made an acceptance speech worthy of a seasoned politician.

"It's tough to put into words," Posey said when asked for his emotions after hearing the news. "I think it's an accomplishment that is shared with the whole Giants organization. It's a great place to come and play ball every day. I couldn't be more honored to have my name alongside the previous winners."

He carries himself with such maturity, we often forget how young he is. At age 25, Posey becomes the sixth-youngest National League player to win the MVP -- behind only Johnny Bench (22), Stan Musial (22), Willie Mays (23), Hank Aaron (23) and Paul Waner (24).

That is a fairly impressive list. All five of those men eventually reached the Hall of Fame. All five showed not just uncommon talent, but uncommon baseball instincts and maturity at an early age. Likewise, Posey has always been an old pro in a young pro's body.

Here's what I mean: Posey may have won Thursday's award for his play in 2012. But he began winning it from the moment he was drafted in the first round out of Florida State in 2008. In fact, as I watched this Giants season unfurl, with the way Posey upped his game to take charge of things after the drug suspension of Melky Cabrera in mid-August, it simply certified the opinion I developed the first time I saw him.


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That was in the spring of 2009. Posey was playing for the minor league San Jose Giants at Municipal Stadium. He was in his first full season as a pro, after only 15 games the previous season at the rookie and Class A level. That day, Posey emerged from a clubhouse meeting and was eager to start infield practice. He said we had 10 minutes to talk in the dugout. I tried to break the ice by asking if he'd found anyplace good to eat in San Jose.

He looked back at me with a slight grin and shook his head.

"Do you know someplace?" he asked, then explained: "I spend a lot of time here at the field. I mean, I'm out here a majority of the time. My goal is to just get better, come to the park and do it every day."

The rest of the 10 minutes were just as businesslike. Posey politely answered the questions. But he kept staring out at the infield. You could tell he was clawing mentally to get out there and work. I remember writing down in my notebook that I had never met a more intense and focused Class A player. He was 22. Usually, 22-year-old minor leaguers know a few spots in town to find a burger.

The San Francisco Giants’ Buster Posey (28) hits a home run against the Detroit Tigers in the sixth inning in Game 4 of the World Series at Comerica
The San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey (28) hits a home run against the Detroit Tigers in the sixth inning in Game 4 of the World Series at Comerica Park in Detroit on Oct. 28, 2012.

I remember something else from that day, too. The San Jose Giants' president in 2009 was Jim Weyermann, who now works for the Golden State Warriors establishing their developmental league team in Santa Cruz. After interviewing Posey that day, I dropped by Weyermann's office to see if he had any insights into Posey.

Absolutely, said Weyermann. In his position, he was used to having players seeking help with transportation, favors, obtaining concert tickets or other special considerations.

"Buster hasn't been in my office yet, asking for anything," Weyermann said. "And I can't say that about every first-round pick who's been through here."

In other words, Posey was not thinking anything but baseball. He never let other stuff get in the way. And he still tunes out clutter magnificently, getting to the heart of the matter.

As a general rule, I'm not big on MVP awards in team sports. But baseball is different. It's a game of one-on-one matchups. It also has the longest season among our major sports. It takes a certain type of personality to endure through the 162 games and produce on the field, while making sure the clubhouse mindset never wavers. If someone accomplishes all that, he deserves an MVP trophy.

You can read all of Posey's statistics and see what he did on the field. You can cite his comeback performance from a mangled ankle to demonstrate his guts. But he gets huge bonus points for the way he became the clubhouse's gravitational center after Aug. 15, the day Cabrera was suspended and left the ballpark without talking to his teammates.

Many of the Giants were peeved about how their teammate -- and their leading hitter at the time -- had let them down. Posey was the one guy who stood up in the clubhouse and more or less declared they were going to win without him.

"I think I come across as quiet to the media," Posey said Thursday after the MVP announcement. "But in the clubhouse, I'm a little more loose and relaxed. My goal is to win."

In that way, Posey reminds me most of Bench, another catcher who made a big impact at a young age and became a leader for a championship team. Bench was 22 when he won MVP honors in 1970. However, he had to wait another five years to win his first World Series ring. Posey has already won two.

In a nice twist, Posey once won the Johnny Bench Award to honor college baseball's best catcher. Bench presented the award and had great things to say about Posey's future. I was thinking about all that during the playoffs when Posey hit his grand slam against the Reds -- Bench's former team -- to help win the decisive Game 5 in Cincinnati.

Did I mention how young he is? We'll see what happens to Posey's career after this, where it might go. It's funny to think about now, but when I went back and found my notebook from that day in 2009, it contained a quote from Andy Skeels, then the San Jose Giants manager. Skeels believed that Posey had a bright future but was concerned about expectations.

"My fear," Skeels said, "is that people will expect him to be an All-Star before he's even in the big leagues."

As it turned out, Skeels might have underestimated Posey. We might even be underestimating him now. For Posey, this MVP award is a perfect conclusion to a remarkable season. But it could be just the start of even greater things for the old pro.

Contact Mark Purdy at mpurdy@mercurynews.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/mercpurdy.