A. J. Pierzynski

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A. J. Pierzynski
A. J. Pierzynski on July 8, 2013.jpg
Pierzynski with the Rangers in 2013
Catcher
Born: (1976-12-30) December 30, 1976 (age 37)
Bridgehampton, New York
Bats: Left Throws: Right
MLB debut
September 9, 1998 for the Minnesota Twins
Career statistics
(through 2014 season)
Batting average .281
Hits 1,867
Home runs 177
Runs batted in 837
Runs 741
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Anthony John "A. J." Pierzynski (/pɪərˈzɪnski/; born December 30, 1976) is an American professional baseball catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. Pierzynski previously played with the Minnesota Twins (1998–2003), San Francisco Giants (2004), Chicago White Sox (2005–2012), Texas Rangers (2013), Boston Red Sox (2014) and St. Louis Cardinals (2014).

Pierzynski is known for having a strong and colorful personality, a fact he acknowledges. During his turn at the microphone following the White Sox victory parade in 2005, he thanked team personnel "for putting up with me." Former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen summed up the situation as, "If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less."[1] Guillen also acknowledged Pierzynski's value to the club, despite being relatively high-maintenance: "A.J.'s been great for me. He's worth the work because he always shows up for you."

Early life[edit]

Pierzynski was born on December 30, 1976, in Bridgehampton, New York.[2] He attended Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Florida, where he won All-State honors in baseball. Outfielder/designated hitter Johnny Damon was one of Pierzynski's high school teammates.[3]

Professional career[edit]

Minnesota Twins[edit]

Pierzynski graduated from high school in 1994 and signed a letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Tennessee.[2] He was also selected by the Minnesota Twins in the third round (71st overall) of that year's MLB Draft and chose to sign with the ballclub on June 9.[4] He began his minor league career with the Gulf Coast League Twins and spent the next four years playing for the minor-league Elizabethton Twins, Fort Wayne Wizards, Fort Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats, and Salt Lake Buzz.

After four years in the Twins organization, he was called up to the major league team, and made his debut on September 9, 1998, when he was 22 years old. He then spent the next five seasons, through the 2003 season, with Minnesota, though he was not a regular starter until 2001. From 1998-2000, he appeared in just 49 games for the Twins. In 2002 he made the American League All-Star Team as a reserve catcher. In the 2002 American League Division Series, Pierzynski hit an important home run in the ninth inning of the final game, in which the Twins clinched the series. In 2003, Pierzynski reached a .312 batting average, a career high that still stands.[5]

San Francisco Giants[edit]

After the 2003 season, the Twins traded Pierzynski to the San Francisco Giants for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser.[6] With the Giants he hit .272 with 11 home runs and 77 RBIs. He spent one season in San Francisco before being non-tendered.

Chicago White Sox[edit]

Pierzynski was signed as a free agent by the Chicago White Sox on January 6, 2005.[4] When he signed with the White Sox, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story claiming that the catcher had kneed Giants trainer Stan Conte in the groin during a spring training game in 2004.[7] Although the incident allegedly happened during the game, it went unreported for nearly a year in the press. Pierzynski has disputed the allegations publicly. "Don't you think if something like that happened, in spring training, you would have heard about it? I would have gotten in some sort of trouble?"[8] He would later go on to contribute to the White Sox's historic run of winning their first World Series since the 1917 contest.

Pierzynski during his tenure with the Chicago White Sox in 2009

In 2006, Pierzynski was named one of the five American League players in the All-Star Final Vote. Soon afterwards the Chicago White Sox organization began an election campaign using the slogan "Punch A.J." Pierzynski received 3.6 million votes, the most votes in the American League, subsequently sending him to his second All-Star appearance.[9] The "Punch A.J." campaign was inspired by an incident on May 20, 2006 between Pierzynski and Chicago Cubs catcher Michael Barrett. After a fly ball out, Pierzynski tagged up at third base and tried to score on the throw. After a collision at home, where Pierzynski knocked Barrett from his feet, Pierzynski slapped home plate with his hand. After getting up, Barrett grabbed Pierzynski and punched him in the face. A bench-clearing brawl ensued, and Pierzynski, Barrett, White Sox outfielder Brian Anderson and Cubs first baseman John Mabry were ejected.[10]

Pierzynski caught Mark Buehrle's no-hitter on April 18, 2007,[11] but not his perfect game on July 23, 2009. He caught Philip Humber's perfect game on April 21, 2012 against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field, as well.[12] On May 28, 2007, in a game versus the Minnesota Twins, Pierzynski twice ran down the first base line with his feet on the inside of the base, possibly nipping Twins first baseman Justin Morneau with his spikes. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was furious with the umpires, which resulted in a long tirade. However, he was not ejected. Pierzynski denied any attempt to step on Morneau.[13]

Pierzynski holds the AL record for consecutive errorless chances with 962, breaking Yogi Berra's previous record of 950, set in 1959.[14]

Pierzynski agreed to a two-year contract to remain with the White Sox after the 2010 season.[15][16]

On June 13, 2012, Pierzynski was rated the most hated MLB player.[17] In 2012, Pierzynski homered in five consecutive games, tying the franchise record and becoming the sixth player to achieve this feat. His teammate Paul Konerko was the most recent Sox player to achieve this feat in 2011.[18] Pierzynski won a Silver Slugger Award at catcher, his first. He hit .278/.326/.501 in 135 games, all but 5 behind the plate, with 27 HR and 77 RBI.

Texas Rangers[edit]

Following the 2012 season, Pierzynski agreed to a one-year contract for 2013 with the Texas Rangers worth $7.5 million.[19] He enjoyed a solid year for Texas, hitting .272 with 17 home runs and 70 RBIs in 503 at-bats.[20]

Boston Red Sox[edit]

On December 3, 2013, Pierzynski agreed to a one-year contract with the Boston Red Sox, pending the completion of a physical examination.[21] The deal became official the next day.[22] On June 5, 2014, Pierzynski was ejected by umpire Quinn Wolcott after a leadoff walk by pitcher Brandon Workman because he asked Wolcott to "give me a new ball. One you can see."[23] This was Pierzynski's ninth career ejection.[24] Pierzynski's offense regressed with Boston as he hit just .254/.286/.348 in 256 at-bats.[20]

On July 9, 2014, Pierzynski was designated for assignment and Christian Vazquez was promoted from AAA Pawtucket.[25] Several media reports have stated the fact that many in baseball consider Pierzynski to be a "club house cancer."[26] On July 16, 2014, the Red Sox officially released Pierzynski from their roster.[27]

St. Louis Cardinals[edit]

On July 26, 2014, the St. Louis Cardinals signed Pierzynski to a major league deal.[28] Later that day, he went 3-for-4 with 3 singles and an RBI in his Cardinals debut, helping the Cardinals to beat the Cubs 6-3.[29] He hit .244/.295/.305 in 82 at-bats, mostly serving as a backup catcher to Yadier Molina. Pierzynski was left off of the playoff roster for the NLDS against the Dodgers.[30]

Broadcasting career[edit]

Chris Rose (left), Pierzynski (center), and Eric Karros (right) during the pregame show of the 2011 World Series

Pierzynski was hired by Fox to be an analyst for the 2011 MLB postseason on the pre-game and postgame show.[31] He joined Fox again for the 2012 and 2013 postseasons.

Professional wrestling[edit]

On December 8, 2005, Pierzynski appeared on TNA Impact!, a professional wrestling television program aired by the professional wrestling promotion Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Accompanied by White Sox strength trainer Dale Torborg, Pierzynski presented TNA wrestlers A.J. Styles, Chris Sabin and Sonjay Dutt with memorabilia from the 2005 World Series. At the ceremony, an incident was staged to include Pierzynski in a controversy with the wrestlers. Pierzynski then made his professional wrestling managerial debut at TNA Turning Point 2005 on December 11, 2005, accompanying Torborg, Sabin and Dutt to ringside for their match against the Diamonds in the Rough.

On October 10, 2006, Pierzynski appeared on ESPN2's Cold Pizza, wearing the X-Division Championship belt,[clarification needed] and challenged WWE Champion John Cena, who was also a guest that morning, to a Title vs. Title steel cage match whenever Cena wanted to have it. Cena responded asking if Pierzynski got his championship belt out of a gumball machine outside.

Pierzynski returned to TNA in January 2007, when he and Torborg confronted Lance Hoyt. At Against All Odds 2007 Pierzynszki was in Torborg's corner when he was defeated by Hoyt, who had David Eckstein in his corner.[32]

On the September 7, 2009 edition of WWE Raw, Pierzynski made his first appearance on WWE television, replacing Chris Jericho in a game show called The Price is Raw while Bob Barker was hosting.

Personal life[edit]

Pierzynski is married to Lisa Pierzynski.[33] The couple have two children, Ava and Austin.[34]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Love him or hate him, you have to respect A.J. Pierzynski - ESPN The Magazine". Sports.espn.go.com. Retrieved April 1, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "A.J. Pierzynski," Player File, Biography, Chicago White Sox, official website. Retrieved May 18, 2007.
  3. ^ Chris Berman during Game 1 of 2005 ALDS ESPN Telecast
  4. ^ a b "A.J. Pierzynski," Transactions, Baseball-reference.com, Retrieved May 18, 2007.
  5. ^ "A.J. Pierzynski," Career stats, Chicago White Sox, official website. Retrieved May 18, 2007.
  6. ^ "Giants give up Nathan in deal for catcher". ESPN.com. 
  7. ^ Jenkins, Bruce (January 15, 2005). "Ballplayers still getting their edge". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 23, 2008. 
  8. ^ "Bottom line: A.J.'s a gamer". ESPN.com. Retrieved October 21, 2008. 
  9. ^ Newman, Mark (July 6, 2006). "Nomar, A.J. named Final Vote winners". MLB.com. Retrieved July 10, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Cubs' Barrett slugs Pierzynski, leads to melee". ESPN. Retrieved October 23, 2008. 
  11. ^ "Retrosheet Boxscore: Chicago White Sox 6, Texas Rangers 0". Retrosheet.org. April 18, 2007. Retrieved April 1, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Chicago White Sox vs. Seattle Mariners - Recap - April 21, 2012 - ESPN". Scores.espn.go.com. April 21, 2012. Retrieved April 1, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Twins upset about Pierzynski's play". mlb.com. Retrieved May 29, 2007. 
  14. ^ "White Sox, A.J. Pierzynski agree on two-year extension". MLB.com. Retrieved October 21, 2008. 
  15. ^ "Pierzynski, White Sox renew partnership | whitesox.com: News". Chicago.whitesox.mlb.com. June 19, 2012. Retrieved April 1, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Pierzynski re-signs with White Sox for 2 years". Sports.espn.go.com. December 3, 2010. Retrieved April 1, 2013. 
  17. ^ Calcaterra, Craig (June 13, 2012). "Men's Journal survey: A.J. Pierzynski is baseball's most hated player. Philly has the most obnoxious fans". HardballTalk. 
  18. ^ "MLB.com Gameday | MLB.com: Gameday". Mlb.mlb.com. Retrieved April 1, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Rangers, catcher A.J. Pierzynski officially agree to one-year, $7.5 million deal | texasrangers.com: News". Texas.rangers.mlb.com. Retrieved April 1, 2013. 
  20. ^ a b "A.J. Pierzynski Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference.com. 
  21. ^ Browne, Ian (December 3, 2013). "Pierzynski agrees to one-year deal with Red Sox". MLB.com. Retrieved December 3, 2013. 
  22. ^ Twitter / Ken_Rosenthal: Pierzynski passed physical with #RedSox, one-year deal is official.
  23. ^ Castrovince, Anthony (June 26, 2014). "Ejections are actually on the rise this season". MLB.com. Retrieved July 11, 2014. 
  24. ^ Browne, Ian (June 5, 2014). "Pierzynski tossed by plate umpire in series finale". MLB.com. Retrieved July 11, 2014. 
  25. ^ Perry, Phil (July 9, 2014). "Reports: Sox designate Pierzynski for assignment". Comcast SportsNet New England. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  26. ^ Bradford, Rob (July 10, 2014). "The A.J. Pierzynski Problem was Worse than Anybody Could Have Imagined". WEEI. Retrieved 10 July 2014. 
  27. ^ Speier, Alex. "Red Sox release A.J. Pierzynski". Retrieved July 17, 2014. 
  28. ^ "Cardinals sign veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski". ESPN.com. Associated Press. July 26, 2014. Retrieved July 27, 2014. 
  29. ^ "A.J. Pierzynski has 3 hits in debut to help Cardinals break 4-game skid.". ESPN.com. Associated Press. July 26, 2014. Retrieved July 27, 2014. 
  30. ^ http://nesn.com/2014/10/a-j-pierzynski-videobombs-mike-matheny-during-cardinals-win-gif/
  31. ^ "Most Popular E-mail Newsletter". USA Today. October 2, 2011. 
  32. ^ "Dale Torborg's profile". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2010-05-03. 
  33. ^ Britton, Tim (April 16, 2014). "A.J. Pierzynski has second father figure in White Sox broadcaster, Hawk Harrelson". Providence Journal. Retrieved July 10, 2014. 
  34. ^ Dorsey, David (February 18, 2014). "Pierzynski glad to be back". News-Press. Retrieved July 10, 2014. 

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