La Velle E. Neal III, the Star Tribune’s baseball beat writer, was honored Friday night with the Sam Lacy Pioneer Award as Journalist of the Year. He was presented the award by the Sports Task Force at the National Association of Black Journalists conference in Minneapolis.

In addition to Neal, Pioneer Awards were given to former Viking Alan Page, former Twin Tony Oliva, former women’s soccer star Brianna Scurry, former Gophers football player and boxer Bill McMoore and former Gophers basketball player Linda Roberts.

Neal has covered the Twins since 1998. He is a past president of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, and he is one of only three black baseball writers in the country and the only one who writes for a newspaper. He previously worked at the Kansas City Star, covering the Royals for four seasons.

The Pioneer Awards are named after Lacy, a pioneering baseball writer who pushed for racial integration in sports.