2013: The Year of the Utility Infielder


Chicks who dig home runs aren’t the ones who appeal to me. I think there’s sexiness in infield hits because they require technique.

~Ichiro Suzuki

cat-eats-baseball-players

In a little more than a month, pitchers and catchers report for Major League Baseball’s annual spring training. It’s never too early to start hoping and dreaming and wishing if, like me, you’re a die-hard baseball fan. (This includes you, Chicago Cubs fans.) As a Red Sox fan, I’m just looking forward to a fresh start from the train wreck of a year that was 2012.

When I start to think about baseball season I start to think about all the baseball cards I once owned. This was during the so-called Steroid Era, and some of my once-prized cards of Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens turned out to be just nice little 5-cent pieces of paper after all. When I recently cleaned out my junk drawer, I found a stray card of Jose Oquendo. You’re no doubt asking, “Who?” I don’t blame you for that; unless you’re a baseball fan you probably have never heard of him. He was what is called in baseball a “utilityman,” meaning he can play many different positions, although not any of them at an All-Star level. He is also one of the few players in MLB history to have played every position at some point in his career.

I have always been a utilityman (or utilitywoman, as such.) I’ve never been good enough to push through to the highest levels at whatever I do, so I compensated for learning a lot of different skills, not all of them glamorous or exciting. Let’s face it: who tends to get the prestige and the acclaim? Is it the type-A go-getters or the quiet guy or gal who does the mundane and boring stuff back at the office?

And therein lies the problem. As a whole American culture glorifies the Big Stars and the Big Names. We don’t air TV shows or write books about the person who programs our computers or teaches our kids or drives our city buses and trains. That’s not to say those jobs aren’t important; I happen to believe they’re more important in some ways than the Talking Heads of upper management. If they are done well, they are the most important jobs of all.

Which is why I’m determined to be the best Utility Infielder I can in 2013. The Great Recession, now in its 5th year, has touched every single one of us to some extent. Nobody’s job is safe anymore. As with professional sports, there has to be a Next Man Up mentality. We are expendable and we are replaceable, like it or not. So how do we prove our worth and justify the dollar amount it takes to keep us around? It starts with versatility, which is the bread and butter of any good utility player. Need a catcher? No problem. Got a hole in left field? I can fill that. In a world that has compressed responsibilities and laid heavier work burdens on those left, the ability to work well at many positions is more valuable than ever.

This year I’m determined to learn more skills and not be satisfied with what I know already. One of my resolutions is to learn workable Spanish by year’s end (and maybe move on to workable Mandarin.) I’m also planning on becoming competent with all the technologies at work despite my Luddite tendencies. Am I really looking forward to all this? Not really…but they are necessary to make me a better worker and help justify the existence of my job. The best utility players, like the best left-handed relief pitchers, will always have a job because of their comparative rarity. Injuries happen, along with maternity leaves and downsizings and promotions. I want to be the Next Man (or woman) Up, always.

That’s why I’m officially making 2013 the Year of the Utility Infielder. It’s not exciting but I think it has a certain ring to it. (Maybe it will even give the Cubs a bit of much-needed luck?)

godhatescubs

(Or not.)

What skills are you determined to learn in 2013? How has the recession changed your life or made you re-examine it?

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on January 6, 2013.

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