Big League Stew

Justin Toole plays all nine positions in minor-league game

David Brown
Big League Stew

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(Carolina Mudcats)

Cleveland Indians minor leaguer Justin Toole just became one of those rarest of commodities in baseball by demonstrating he's a nine-tool player. Well, nine positions, anyway, after the appropriately named Toole played every spot on defense for the High-A Carolina Mudcats on Saturday. He's a regular Bert Campaneris!

It was a stunt, it was a gimmick, but it was also fun — and it didn't cost the Mudcats, who improved to 61-71 after beating Salem 4-2. A 25-year-old utility man (no kidding!) in his fourth season, Toole went 1 for 4 at the plate and pitched the ninth inning, striking out two but also allowing back-to-back home runs.

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Great success! Via Twitter, Toole provided a neat photo collage of his accomplishment. He also told MiLB.com that skipper Edwin Rodriguez, the Miami Marlins manager before Ozzie Guillen took over, had this in mind all season:

"My manager ... came up to me at the beginning of the year and asked me where I could play. I told him, 'Anywhere,' and he came up to me later and said I'd play all nine positions later this year," Toole said. "I kind of laughed [at the time], but as the season was winding down, he picked tonight and we ran with it."

Toole began the game in right field, moving across the outfield over the first three innings. He made his way to the infield in the fourth, starting at first base and reaching third by the seventh. He caught the eighth and finished the night on the mound.

This has happened before in the minors — in fact, teammates Kevin Higgins and Keith Lockhart of the Padres organization both did it in the same game for Triple-A Las Vegas in 1994 — but it's also a great reminder of how rarely it's been done in the majors.

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(AP, Getty)

Only four players have ever played all nine positions in a major-league game, and none since Shane Halter of the Tigers in October 2000.  Scott Sheldon of the Rangers also did it earlier that season. Before that, Cesar Tovar of the Twins in 1968 and Bert Campaneris of the A's (Kansas City at the time) did it in '65. The Flagrant Fan has a detailed rundown of every episode.

(An aside: Steve Lyons did it once, too — in an exhibition game — but never during the regular season. He wanted to, but darn that Jim Fregosi!)

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Here's the thing about this kind of accomplishment: Tovar and Campaneris are excused, but it's still incomplete because nobody has ever played all nine and been a designated hitter in one game. It's like climbing Mount Everest and leaving the last 10 feet for next time. Toole missed the opportunity, too, because they use a DH in the Carolina League.

But let's even take it one more step. Well, more than one more. Let's take the concept manager Russ Nixon used in '94 with Higgins and Lockhart and expand it to all nine starting players: Nine guys, nine different positions, one game. It would create scorecard chaos. Some might even think it makes a travishamockery of baseball. Well, the sport that brought you Eddie Gaedel and fans-as-managers begs to differ. It would take a lot of planning and patience, but it's really the final frontier for the multiple position stunt.

We'll probably never see it in the majors, but sometime in late September it would make a Twins-Indians game much more enticing to watch.

Big BLS H/N: Larry Brown Sports

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