Tigers’ utility man Tommy Field is a baseball survivor
Viera, Fla. – He’s been a Dust Devil, a Tourist, a Nut, a Scorpion, a Driller, a Bee and an Express.
He’s also been, briefly, a Rockie, Angel and Ranger.
It’s been quite a baseball journey for 29-year-old utility player Tommy Field, who is trying to add Tiger, or at least Mud Hen, to his collection of professional teams nicknames he’s played for.
“I do have a nice little collection (of uniform jerseys),” he said. “That’s been one of the best parts of playing baseball. I’ve been able to see places I’d probably never get to see if I was working a regular 8-to-5 job.”
Pasco, Washington; Asheville, N.C.; Modesto, Calif.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Tulsa; Salt Lake City; Indianapolis; Round Rock, Tenn.; and of course Denver, Anaheim and Arlington, Texas.
He is the baseball equivalent of a journeyman, but the label doesn’t do justice to the fact that he has the capability of playing every position on the infield, as well as the two corner outfield spots, at the Major League level.
The vast majority of us can’t play one position at a big league level, let alone four or five.
“The past few years I’ve been up and down, getting a little time in the big leagues and some Triple-A time,” he said. “I just come to the organization to provide the services they need. I can play multiple positions. I am not going to hurt the team in any way defensively, and offensively I can put together quality at-bats and not do harm there, as well.”
Defense is his stock in trade. Field has hit .214 in 117 Major League at-bats spread out over four years. He’s hit .268 over eight minor league seasons.
He played 14 games with the Rangers last season. On May 11, he hit his first big league home run against Kansas City. He homered again on May 16. On May 30 he was designated for assignment.
Such is a journeyman’s life.
“It’s one of those things,” he shrugged. “You fill a role for a little bit when they need you. Obviously, if you are not part of the team’s plans, and I am out of (minor league) options. It’s either they take another guy off the roster that they may think may help them later, or they get rid of me and see if I will stay in the organization to possibly help them out later.”
It’s the role veteran Josh Wilson performed for the Tigers last season. He managed to play 21 games for the Tigers, hitting .316 in 38 at-bats. He even pitched an inning last season. Other than having to pitch, Field would like to provide the same multi-positional insurance policy for the Tigers this year.
“I suppose he could,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He’s certainly a guy with some big league experience. If there was a need, he could fill in at the Major League level.”
With veteran utility players Mike Aviles and Andrew Romine in place, the need may be further removed for Field than it was for Wilson last year. But there's a reason these types of players end up on some team’s spring training roster year after year.
“One thing that stands out about guys like that -- they have that makeup you really want to see in all players,” Ausmus said. “Because of the way their career paths have gone, they understand what their role is and more importantly, they understand that the success of the team is priority No. 1. They tend to be more unselfish.”
Whether it works out in Detroit (or Toledo) or not, Field will keep fighting the good fight.
“I love the game of baseball,” he said. “I don’t see myself doing anything other than baseball. That’s what my passion is. My family is behind me, whatever decisions I make. And right now, this is where I need to be.”
A baseball journeyman? Sure. But, more accurately, he’s a baseball survivor. Of all the players the Rockies drafted in 2008, there are only three left in pro baseball – Charlie Blackmon, Christian Friedrich and Tommy Field.
“I’m in good company,” he said. “There’s been a lot of guys drafted after us and we’ve lasted longer than a lot of them.”