Longtime MLB infielder Nick Punto has decided to officially retire, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The scrappy utility infielder sat out last season after a 14-year career that saw him spend time with six different clubs as a starter and super-sub. After being drafted in the 21st round by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1998, Punto beat the odds and cracked the majors three years later, going on to serve with the Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Oakland Athletics as well as the Phillies.
Punto finishes with a career .245/.323/.323 slash line and 76 OPS+ in 1,163 games played. The stat line doesn’t tell the whole story, however. Punto was widely regarded as a great clubhouse influence wherever he went and still remains close with several other players he crossed paths with. When Baseball Essential spoke to one of those players recently, Kevin Youkilis called his former Red Sox teammate “one of my closest baseball friends.” In a guest column on Buster Onley’s ESPN blog last summer, Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis made it clear how important Punto, along with fellow backups Skip Schumaker and Jerry Hairston Jr., was to the 2013 L.A. squad that eventually lost to the Cardinals in the NLCS:
Players like (Schumaker, Punto, and Hairston) provided good examples of what it takes to be on alert to play anywhere on a ball field at any time — while sometimes going days between appearances. While they might not have been starters, what those three men did behind the scenes helped take us to within two wins of the World Series in 2013, the closest the franchise had been in 25 years.
In addition to the 2013 Dodgers, Punto also appeared in the playoffs four other times, finishing with a .219/.320/.250 slash line in 77 total postseason plate appearences. His first tastes of October came in 2006 and 2009 with the Twins, losing in the ALDS both times. His last career appearance to date is the unforgettable 2014 AL Wild Card playoff in which Punto’s A’s lost in extra innings to the eventual back-to-back AL Pennant winner Kansas City Royals. Punto does retire with a ring, however, having been part of the 2011 Cardinals team that made a surprise run to the World Series, stunning the Texas Rangers in a seven-game classic.
I would make a joke here about how Punto now has more time to work on his golf game, but it sounds like he’s already doing fine in that regard:
The aftermath of a hole in one! pic.twitter.com/T1k9Tz36Pb
— Nick Punto (@Shredderpunto) December 6, 2015