While dozens of major leaguers are avoiding World Baseball Classic duty because it takes them out of their comfort zone, Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin wants to double his challenge on the Canadian team.
Get this: The 30-year-old Ontario native tells Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports that he plans to play shortstop for the national team when it begins play on March 8 against Italy.
Martin has 910 big league games under his belt and 894 of them have started with him behind the plate. Fifteen have come at third base and one featured Martin playing second. But never has he played a game at shortstop, despite beginning his minor league career as a third baseman.
No matter. Martin wants to help out his country now that Canada's supply of shortstops is running as low as its recent supply of Stanley Cup-winning teams. Indeed, Canada's roster does not feature a single player with extensive experience at the position.
Even as he’s busy learning Pittsburgh’s pitching staff in the early days of camp, (Martin has) been taking ground balls on the back fields at Pirate City. A shortstop’s glove arrived over the weekend. Now he’s breaking it in.
“I like to prove people wrong,” Martin said. “I’m going to do what I feel like doing. I feel like playing shortstop. It’s a selfish move from my part. But it’s what I love to do. Sometimes you’ve got to do what you feel like doing for yourself. And I want to do it.
“And if it goes well, then great. I expect it to go well, because I know I have the talent. I’m doing the work I need to do now to not embarrass myself and my country. Hopefully, people will be pleasantly surprised when they see how I play.”
Canada currently has only one other catcher on its roster — Baltimore minor leaguer Chris Robinson — so it's possible the team needs to figure out a way to clone Martin if it wants to field the best squad. But kudos to Martin for volunteering to pull shortstop duty. It'll be interesting to watch his range after a career filled with crouching behind the plate.
In case you were wondering, the roster of catcher/shortstops in big league history is an extremely thin one. Only one player — Bobby Bragan of Phillies and Dodgers in the '40s — played more than 100 games at each position (415 at short, 140 at catcher) while famed "spy" catcher Moe Berg played a total of 84 games at shortstop early in his career.
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In more recent times, a San Diego Padres utilityman from the 1970s named Dave Roberts played 152 games at catcher and 40 at shortstop.
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