Atlanta Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski joined the 2,000-hit club against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night at Fenway Park. Now thirty-nine years old, the veteran backstop with the eye-chart name has shown some remarkable staying power in the past few seasons.
The Red Sox released the catcher during the 2014 season after he posted weak offensive statistics. Pierzynski batted just .254/.286/.384 during his 72-game stint with the Red Sox. He caught on with the St. Louis Cardinals before moving on to the Braves and enjoying a sort of career renaissance. He batted .300 last season with nine home runs and became the club’s regular catcher. He’s started slowly this year with a .220 batting average.
Pierzynski becomes the tenth catcher to join the exclusive 2,000-hit club, joining an elite group that includes five Hall of Famers in Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk and Mike Piazza, and two guys that present really strong cases as players in Joe Torre and Ted Simmons. Jason Kendall rounds out the group and he was no slouch, either. Just 277 players in baseball history have achieved the milestone; Todd Zeile and Shawn Green are next in line to get passed on the all-time hits list.
The Braves are Pierzynski’s seventh team, and he’s often been cited as variously a hothead, a prickly human being, and even a “rhymes-with-‘smashpole’,” all of which might have played some role in his peripatetic career. He started out with the Minnesota Twins and was a leader on the 2005 World Series Champion Chicago White Sox for their first title run in 88 years. He’s also played for the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers.
Pierzynski is a two-time All-Star with a .282 career average and decent power, hitting as many as 27 home runs back in 2012. He’s also performed well in the postseason with a .292 average and five home runs in 32 games. He might not get a lot of Hall of Fame votes when his playing career ends, but he’s certainly had a career that he can remember with pride.