You gotta love hustle.
In spring ball when the kid wearing jersey No. 62 sprints to first base after drawing a walk.
The fielder who, with no regard for his own safety, goes headstrong into the camera well for a foul ball.
The ballplayer who forgoes the home run trot, just in case he didn't get all of it, and turns a double off the wall into a triple.
I've gone through current MLB rosters to put together a team of those hard-nosed hustlers that you can't help but respect. The lineup contains many utility players, so many positions are interchangeable.
I got this idea while reading Bleacher Report's own Paul Swaney's piece titled A Baseball Team Everyone Can Root For. When I got to thinking of the ballplayers I root for most, I came up with a collection of blue collar types that bust their humps day in and day out, not to make the highlight reel, but to get the W.
Catcher is the toughest position because every catcher in baseball, seemingly, is the kind of guy that deserves to be on a list like this. He knows his pitchers, he knows his opponents, and he knows how to handle every situation the game can serve up. He is the quarterback of the team and, in my opinion, doesn't receive a fraction of the glory he deserves—which is exactly why all catchers deserve to be on this list.
But since there can only be one the spot goes to Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins. Mauer is playing for his hometown team, and his pride is evident. In all likelihood, the former No. 1 overall draft pick could play third base or a corner outfield spot. But he doesn't. Instead he crouches in catcher's gear for 140 games a season.
First basemen aren't exactly known for their hustle. In fact, most first basemen are two cheeseburgers away from becoming designated hitters. But one first basemen that hustles more than most is the lumbering Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox.
Ryan Freel of the Baltimore Orioles is solid brass. He's a career journeyman who might play five positions in five days. He's the ultimate utility guy and once he digs those cleats into the field he gives his maximum effort and it comes to no surprise that Freel is currently on the disable list with a concussion.
Mark DeRosa of the Cleveland Indians locks down the hot corner. DeRosa is probably the smartest guy in this lineup and one of the few MLB players with an Ivy League education. He was quarterback of the football team at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also baseball. Despite his Ivy League background, DeRosa's a man who's not afraid to get dirty.
Alfredo Amezaga of the Florida Marlins is saturated with potential. Amezaga won't be the everyday starter of the Florida Marlins anytime soon, but with his ability to play anywhere on the field he'll get plenty of playing time. If you ever get a chance to see him play, you won't be disappointed. Amezaga surely ensures the Marlins' clubhouse laundry room is always stocked with stain-remover. I'm not sure he's ever taken off a stain-free uniform.
Eric Byrnes of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He plays with complete disregard for his health and he's so reckless that he's most certainly going to have an injury shortened career. He would most likely be the captain of this squad, even with his recent struggles. Maybe he should declare 2009 the "season of the mustache, part II."
Aaron Rowand of the San Francisco Giants, you know, the guy who went face first into that fence in Philadelphia and split his nose open. You remember the blood trickling down his face. He's not afraid to get hit by a pitch either. He ranks fifteenth among active players in HBPs.
Shane Victorino of the Philadelphia Phillies has showcased his hustle on the biggest stage of them all, the World Series. He can do anything on the baseball diamond and at only 5'8", has one of the biggest arms in baseball.