|Atlanta Braves — No. 20|
|Outfielder / First baseman / Third baseman|
August 5, 1977
|Bats: Left||Throws: Right|
|April 1, 2002 for the Toronto Blue Jays|
(through 2009 season)
|Runs batted in||424|
|On-base plus slugging||.774|
|Career highlights and awards|
Eric Scott Hinske (born August 5, 1977, in Menasha, Wisconsin) is a Major League Baseball player for the Atlanta Braves. Hinske has spent time at the major league level with the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Pittsburgh Pirates, and New York Yankees playing third base, first base, left field, and right field. He is listed at 6'2", 235 pounds. He has played three times in the World Series, losing with the Rays in 2008 and winning with the Red Sox in 2007 and Yankees in 2009.
Eric played for Menasha High School under the coach of Terry Wittmann, where he broke many hitting records. It was here that he was given the nickname "Mr. Beautiful" by his teammates. After playing for the University of Arkansas, he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 17th round of the 1998 amateur draft.
On December 7, 2001, Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi acquired Hinske and reliever Justin Miller from the Athletics for Billy Koch, a move designed to bring youth and vitality to the team. Hinske was inserted in the everyday line-up in 2002, playing third base, and was a key contributor for the team, hitting predominantly in the second spot in the line-up. While criticized early for his sometimes shoddy defense, Hinske made up for his lapses with his bat, hitting 24 home runs, knocking in 84 runs, and scoring 99 runs. He also led all AL third basemen in errors, with 22. He received wide recognition, winning both the MLB Rookie of the Year and The Sporting News Rookie of the Year awards.
Following Hinske's successful 2002 campaign, Ricciardi signed him to a five-year, $14,750,000 contract in March 2003. Hinske slumped through the early part of the 2003 season before he was finally diagnosed with a broken hamate bone in his right hand, after he had played the beginning of the season with the fracture. As a result, he was unable to match his numbers of the previous year, finishing with an average of .243, 12 home runs and 63 RBIs, Hinske finished fifth in the American League with 45 doubles.
Hinske was still unable to return to his rookie form in 2004, finishing the year with a batting average of .248, with 15 home runs and 69 RBIs. A positive from the 2004 season for Hinske was that he had committed a career-low 7 errors at third base, and he led all third baseman in fielding percentage, with a .978 mark.
After the 2004 season, the Blue Jays acquired Corey Koskie and Shea Hillenbrand, both third basemen, and Hinske was moved to first base for the 2005 season. He started off strongly in 2005 with two home runs and 13 RBIs in his first eight games. Hinske finished April with four home runs and 17 RBIs, with a .289 average and a .482 slugging percentage. Hinske finished the 2005 season with a .262 average, 15 home runs and 68 RBI, and a .430 slugging percentage.
With the acquisitions of Lyle Overbay and Troy Glaus by Toronto in the 2005 offseason, there was little room for Hinske as a corner infielder, and he was shifted once more to right field in a platoon with Alex Rios for the 2006 season. Rios won the job after having a solid April.
Though Hinske's primary position in 2006 was right field, he had also seen some spot duty at first and third base, due to either injuries suffered by his teammates during the game or for pinch-hitting purposes.
On June 27, 2006, Rios was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a staph infection suffered after fouling a ball off his leg, thereby clearing the way for Hinske to see regular game action. In addition to Rios' injury, Hillenbrand's stormy departure from the team in July provided even more opportunity for increased playing time.
Hinske is also quoted in a July 25, 2006, column on the Blue Jays' official website, criticizing the departed Hillenbrand, who was designated for assignment for, among other things, complaining about his lack of playing time:
|“||I just took the approach of trying to be professional, check your ego at the door every day. I think we all saw that with Shea Hillenbrand. It can counterproductive to be vocal and not be a so-called 'team' guy.||”|
On August 17, 2006, Hinske was traded to the Boston Red Sox for a minor league player to be named later and cash considerations. His versatility helped the Red Sox, since they were greatly plagued by injuries in the second half of the season. He ended the season with a 10-game hitting streak. On May 17, 2007, Hinske had what could be his career highlight. In the 5th inning of a game against the Tigers, a ball was hit to right field (where Hinske was playing,) and it appeared that the ball was out of reach. But he made a full body dive catch, while also smacking his face into the ground from the impact after making the catch. According to Red Sox color analyst, Jerry Remy, "Gosh, that's one of the best catches you'll see all season long (2007 season.) I didn't think he was gonna get to this." Later, in the bottom of the 7th inning, he would hit a home run into the Red Sox bullpen. He would go on to win the World Series with the Red Sox, as they swept the National League champion Colorado Rockies, 4 games to none.
On February 6, 2008, Hinske signed a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training with the Tampa Bay Rays. He was added to the 40-man major league roster on March 29, and was the Rays opening-day right-fielder. In his Rays debut, Hinske homered to right field off Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie. On July 29, Hinske hit his 100th career home run off former Toronto Blue Jays teammate Roy Halladay. There was controversy as to whether or not it was an inside the park home run. It was later officially ruled a traditional home run, after it was thought to have hit an awning in center field. On the final day of the regular season, Hinske hit his 20th home run, drove in his 60th run, and stole his 10th base of the year. It was the first time he had hit twenty home runs since his rookie year of 2002, and the first time he had stolen ten bases or more since the 2004 season.
Prior to game 4 of the World Series, Hinske was added to the Rays' roster, replacing the injured Cliff Floyd. In the fifth inning of Game 4, Hinske hit an estimated 410-foot pinch-hit home run to center field off Philadelphia starter Joe Blanton, for his first career postseason home run. Hinske also made the final out of the World Series, a strikeout against Phillies closer Brad Lidge.
On January 30, 2009, Hinske signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates worth $1.5 million. Hinske was viewed as a important bench player to pinch hit and bring a veteran bat to the young Pittsburgh lineup. He split time between the outfield and first base. He hit one home run and batted in 11 runs with a .741 OPS during his short stint with the team.
On June 30, 2009, Hinske was traded to the New York Yankees with cash ($400,000, half of his remaining 2009 salary) for minor leaguers Eric Fryer and Casey Erickson. On July 6, 2009, Hinske made his Yankee Debut vs. the Toronto Blue Jays. He hit a home run in his second Yankee at-bat. On July 11, 2009 Hinske homered twice vs. the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. After hitting another home run against the Baltimore Orioles on July 20, he became the only player in Yankee history other than Dave Kingman to homer four times in his first five games as a member of the franchise.
Hinske was included in the Yankees' 25-man roster for the first round of the 2009 playoffs, but was replaced by pinch runner Freddy Guzman for the ALCS. After the ALCS, he was speculated as a potential addition to the World Series roster, and it was confirmed the next day that he would be replacing Freddy Guzman. This marks his third straight World Series appearance with his third different team, all from the AL East, and makes him the first player to appear in three consecutive World Series with three different teams since Don Baylor. He appeared in Game 5 as a pinch hitter when he drew a walk off of Cliff Lee and scored a run.
On January 5th, 2010, it was reported that Hinske signed a one year deal worth $1.5 million with the Atlanta Braves. He will serve as Atlanta's primary pinch hitter, and occasionally spell position players at 1B, 3B, and OF.
Hinske was raised in Menasha, Wisconsin. He attended Menasha High School and played baseball, basketball and football for the Menasha Blue Jays, and lettered in all three sports. Hinske and wife Kathryn, have a daughter, Ava, who was born August 8, 2007. Hinske enjoys listening to metal music, citing Pantera and Metallica as two of his favorite bands.