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A.J. Pierzynski

Chicago White Sox — No. 12
Catcher
Born: December 30, 1976 (1976-12-30) (age 33)
Bridgehampton, New York
Bats: Left Throws: Right 
MLB debut
September 9, 1998 for the Minnesota Twins
Career statistics
(through 2009)
Batting average     .286
Home runs     111
Runs batted in     549
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Anthony John "A. J." Pierzynski (pronounced /pɪərˈzɪnski/) (born December 30, 1976 in Bridgehampton, New York) is an American Major League Baseball catcher who has played for the Chicago White Sox since 2005. Pierzynski formerly played with the Minnesota Twins (1998-2003) and San Francisco Giants (2004). Pierzynski was also a wrestler for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.

Contents

Early life

Anthony John Pierzynski was born on December 30, 1976, in Bridgehampton, New York.[1] He attended Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Florida, where he won All-State honours in baseball. New York Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon was one of Pierzynski's high school team-mates. Pierzynski graduated high school in 1994 and also signed a letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Tennessee.[1] He was also drafted by the Minnesota Twins that year, and he chose to join the Twins. 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.

Major League career

Pierzynski was drafted by the Minnesota Twins on June 2, 1994, out of high school.[2] After four years in the Twins organization, he was called up to the Major League team, and made his debut on September 9, 1998. He 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.[3]

After the 2003 season, the Twins traded Pierzynski to the San Francisco Giants for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser. He spent one season in San Francisco before being signed as a free agent by the Chicago White Sox on January 6, 2005.[2]

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.

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 3rd 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. A bench-clearing brawl ensued, and Pierzynski, Barrett, White Sox outfielder Brian Anderson and Cubs first baseman John Mabry were ejected.[4]

Pierzynski holds the AL record for consecutive errorless chances with 962, breaking Yogi Berra's previous record of 950, set in 1959[5].

Among active catchers with at least 600 games played, going into the 2010 season he was third with a .995 career fielding percentage, behind Mike Redmond (.996) and Joe Mauer (.995), and ahead of Brad Ausmus (.994).[6]

2005 American League Championship Series

Pierzynski was involved in a controversial play that occurred on October 12, 2005 in Game 2 of the 2005 American League Championship Series versus the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. With the score tied and two out in the bottom of the ninth, with two strikes, Pierzynski swung at a low pitch from Angels pitcher Kelvim Escobar and missed, for strike three. Josh Paul, the Angels catcher, rolled the ball to the mound and left the infield. Pierzynski realized strike three had been called, but he had not been called out and ran to first base in case the umpire had ruled that the Angels catcher had not legally caught the strike three pitch (see Uncaught third strike rule). Home plate umpire Doug Eddings indeed ruled that the ball hit the ground and then went into the catcher's glove,[7] meaning Pierzynski was safe at first. A pinch-runner, Pablo Ozuna, replaced Pierzynski and stole second base. Third baseman Joe Crede delivered a base hit three pitches later, scoring Ozuna for the winning run.

Controversies

In January 2005, after Pierzynski had been dealt to the White Sox, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story claiming that the catcher had kneed Giants trainer Stan Conte (no relation to BALCO co-founder Victor Conte) in the groin during a spring training game in 2004[8]. Although the incident allegedly happened during the game, it went completely unreported for nearly an entire 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?" [9]

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.[10]

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." His Chicago 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 Pierzynki'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."

Professional wrestling

On December 8, 2005, A.J. 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, 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.

Personal life

Pierzynski is currently married to Lisa Pierzynski. The couple have two children, Ava and Austin.

References

External links


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