15 MLB Stars Who Still Hustle Like They're Role Players

Doug MeadCorrespondent ISeptember 19, 2012

15 MLB Stars Who Still Hustle Like They're Role Players

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    In the game of baseball, players are often defined by their style of play.

    Sluggers, defensive specialists, pull hitters, "crafty" left-handers—no matter what the moniker, just about every player in MLB can be defined by that one trait that describes his style.

    A player who shows hustle throughout each and every game has a trait admired by just about everyone.

    Here are 15 current MLB stars who continue to show hustle like they're fighting for the 25th spot on the roster regardless of their star status.

1. Torii Hunter: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim right fielder Torii Hunter is once again putting together a strong season in 2012, with a career-best .308 average heading into play on Tuesday.

    Hunter is also vying for his 10th Gold Glove, his first in right field.

    Hunter doesn’t just play the game with heart and drive each and every day, he makes it a point to lead by example, mentoring younger Angels stars like Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos.

    You can count Trout among those who want to emulate Hunter’s style of play.

    "He's a great teammate," Trout told Lyle Spencer of MLB.com. "He understands the game. He's been playing a long time, and he's a smart guy. He's playing all out at 37; that's impressive. He's 37 going on 27. He's not just a leader on the field—he's a leader all the time.”

    When you get that kind of respect from a youngster who’s having a season for the ages, it speaks volumes as to how Hunter is perceived throughout the league.

2. Derek Jeter: New York Yankees

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    At 38 years of age, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is putting together the type of season seen regularly from him in his younger days, and the hustle hasn’t stopped either.

    Last week, in a game against the Boston Red Sox, Jeter ran all-out down to first base in an attempt to break up a double play. Jeter came up limping after hitting the first base bag and would come out of the game, but only after manager Joe Girardi insisted.

    Jeter was back in the lineup the following day, serving as the designated hitter, and he has missed no time since.

    Jeter is a throwback-style player, one who will rarely admit to injury, preferring to rub dirt on it and play on.

    I’ll take nine guys like that on my team any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

3. A.J. Pierzynski: Chicago White Sox

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    Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski is known to be a huge fan of professional wrestling and has played the role of tough guy throughout his major league career.

    But Pierzynski rarely, if ever, takes a play off.

    At 35 years of age, Pierzynski is having one of the finest seasons of his career, setting career highs in home runs, RBI and OPS. He is the unquestioned leader of the White Sox as they fight furiously with the Detroit Tigers in the race for the AL Central Division title.

    Pierzynski’s all-out hustle and durability are traits that should be admired by any aspiring player.

4. Carlos Ruiz: Philadelphia Phillies

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    Speaking of hard-nosed catchers who never take a break…

    Talk to just about any member of the Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff, and they’ll be glad to tell you how they feel about catcher Carlos Ruiz.

    Ruiz was selected to his first All-Star team this season, and despite missing over a month with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, he has put together a career year.

    Ruiz was presented with the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association Heart and Hustle Award earlier this season, an award presented annually to one member of each team. A final MLB winner is decided in November.

    Considering Ruiz’s all-out style of play, he’ll likely be a strong candidate for that award as well.

5. Roy Halladay: Philadelphia Phillies

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    Carlos Ruiz’s teammate on the Philadelphia Phillies, Roy Halladay, has never been one to be seen dragging his feet on the baseball diamond either.

    Halladay, now in his 15th season, has seen his share of struggles this year, posting a 10-7 record and 4.03 ERA while fighting through a strained latissimus dorsi earlier this season.

    Halladay has always been admired for his work ethic, and while he doesn’t have that natural ability to blow hitters away with a high-90s fastball, he’ll throw everything but the kitchen sink to record an out.

6. Juan Pierre: Philadelphia Phillies

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    Our third member of the Philadelphia Phillies on this list, Juan Pierre, had every right to be upset this offseason after no one came knocking on his door with a contract.

    Pierre eventually signed a one-year, non-guaranteed contact for $800K with the Phillies in late January, less than 10 percent of the $8.5 million he was paid in 2011.

    Pierre shined in spring training and made the Phillies roster. Not only did Pierre make the roster, he was a bright spot on a Phillies team that has largely underperformed this season. Heading into action on Tuesday, Pierre was hitting .312 with 35 stolen bases.

    Pierre simply let his on-field play do his talking for him, and while he may have lost a step or two at the age of 35, Pierre continues to play each game like it’s his last.

7. Nick Swisher: New York Yankees

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    While there is much discussion regarding the fate of New York Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher and his pending free-agency status, no one can argue about his hustle and drive.

    It’s rare not to see Swisher with a dirty uniform, either by diving for balls in the outfield or through his spirited hustle on the basepaths.

    Swisher may be looking for a nine-figure contract this offseason. While many will argue the merits of such a deal, no one can debate the fact that the man plays all-out.

8. Dustin Pedroia: Boston Red Sox

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    An awful lot has gone wrong for the Boston Red Sox this season, now on their way to their worst regular-season record since 1992.

    However, one man who continues to play with a dogged spirit is second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

    Pedroia already has plenty of hardware on his mantel—Rookie of the Year Award, MVP Award, Gold Glove Award, Silver Slugger Award, All-Star selections and a World Series ring.

    It could have been easy for Pedroia to pack it in this season, facing nagging injuries and all kinds of clubhouse strife going on around him.

    However, he continues to grind it out every day, hitting .342 in the month of August and a sizzling .409 in September.

    I’ll take nine guys just like Pedroia, thank you.

9. Jered Weaver: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    Throughout his career, Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver has never been the one recognized for blowing away hitters with a blazing fastball.

    But he still manages to miss bats with alarming regularity with a max effort each time out.

    Weaver wasn’t about to let a little tendinitis in his shoulder stop him in his effort to get his Angels into the postseason, throwing a nifty two-hitter through seven innings after missing a start with the aforementioned tendinitis.

    Weaver continues to prove to be a gamer each and every time he takes the mound, and the Angels are the beneficiary of his dogged desire to win no matter what.

10. Michael Young: Texas Rangers

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    Throughout his career with the Texas Rangers, Michael Young has been bounced around like a ping-pong ball from position to position.

    Yet through it all, he still manages to give a max effort despite where he is on the field.

    Young started his Texas career as a second baseman, moved to shortstop to accommodate Ian Kinsler, moved to third base to accommodate Elvis Andrus, moved to designated hitter to accommodate Adrian Beltre and now plays wherever he is needed.

    Young has played 74 games throughout the entire infield this season with an additional 68 games as the DH.

    I’ll be happy to take a guy like that.

11. David Wright: New York Mets

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    Watching third baseman David Wright play is an absolute pleasure.

    Wright is the unquestioned face of the franchise for the New York Mets, and they couldn’t have a better person leading by example.

    Wright is a true dirt dog, doing all of the little things it takes to help his team. As the leader, Wright never shies away from the media, being there to answer questions regarding his team’s performance and always giving his support of his teammates and the organization itself.

    On the field, Wright will never be accused of taking a play off, despite where his team sits in the standings.

    Here’s hoping the Mets realize that signing Wright to a long-term contract is the best possible decision they could make.

12. Shane Victorino: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Shane Victorino has been unable to get on track since moving from the Philadelphia Phillies to his new home in late July.

    Victorino is hitting just .234 in 41 games with the Dodgers entering play on Tuesday. However, Victorino earned the name "Flyin’ Hawaiian" for his fiery brand of play and all-out hustle. Victorino was easily one of the most popular Phillies in recent memory because of his style of play.

    The slow start in Los Angeles doesn’t take away from the fact that Victorino is regarded as a player who puts hustle as a top priority in his game.

13. Clayton Kershaw: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers announced over the weekend that Clayton Kershaw would be scratched from his Sunday start against the Chicago Cubs with lingering soreness in his right hip.

    The Los Angeles Times reported that Kershaw could be lost for the season if a second opinion in New York reveals that Kershaw requires surgery.

    Kershaw isn’t just the ace of the starting rotation for the Dodgers; he’s a leader by example as well.

    Kershaw exhibits a fire that’s visible each time he takes the mound. Kershaw’s fire was evident last year in a tense exchange between the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks. Kershaw took great offense when D-Backs outfielder Gerardo Parra homered off reliever Hong-Chih Kuo and then took his sweet time going around the bases.

    The following night, Kershaw drilled Parra with an inside fastball, earning an ejection for his troubles. Kershaw clearly sent a message not to mess with his teammates.

    That type of fire and the all-out determination each time he takes the mound earns Kershaw a spot on this list.

14. Martin Prado: Atlanta Braves

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    Throughout his career with the Atlanta Braves, Martin Prado has filled in just about anywhere he’s been needed. And it’s his hustle that has made his presence known.

    Prado was the player from the Braves chosen for the annual Heart and Hustle Award given by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.

    Prado could have received this award every year, as a matter of fact.

    Prado is the primary left fielder for the Braves and will likely move to third base next season after the retirement of Chipper Jones. No worries for Prado, however, as he consistently displays a team-first attitude.

15. Jamey Carroll: Minnesota Twins

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    Infielder Jamey Carroll was never the most gifted athlete on any of his teams. In fact, it took Carroll six years to make his debut in the majors at the age of 28 after being drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1996.

    Throughout his 11-year career, Carroll has displayed a measure of grit that belies his 5’11”, 175-pound frame, serving in whatever capacity that was needed for his team to succeed.

    Carroll was only with the Los Angeles Dodgers for two seasons, but he quickly became one of the more popular players because of his all-out hustling style of play.

    In the years I’ve watched Carroll play, not once have I ever seen him give up on a play. Even when he hit a one-hop grounder directly to the first baseman he would run as fast as possible to first base.

    Carroll may not be a star (he's almost assuredly the least talented player on this list), but he's made up for his limitations with his never-ending drive. 

     

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.