The Best Position Changes in Sports History

Nick Dimengo@@itsnickdimengoFeatured ColumnistJune 16, 2015

The Best Position Changes in Sports History

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Growing up and playing a bunch of different sports, it's pretty regular for kids to play a handful of positions, with coaches allowing each player to have a turn somewhere on the court or field.

    As athletes get older and discover what position fits them best, they typically stay there for a long, long time, with a few even making it to the big time by becoming professional athletes.

    In some cases, though, even when a guy gets to the pros, he isn't safe from a position switch, as these All-Stars and Hall of Famers proved, changing from their familiar spot to somewhere completely different.

    The move might be tough for some to adjust to, but these stars made the transition seamlessly, as they're the best players to ever make position changes in sports.

Gareth Bale

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    Many of us are familiar with Gareth Bale as Cristiano Ronaldo's sidekick for Real Madrid, netting 13 goals in 31 matches for the squad this past season.

    Yet, while Bale has established himself as a young star on the offensive side of the ball, his success didn't come until after he made a position change.

    That's because, after beginning his career as a left-back while playing for Southampton several years ago, Bale was eventually moved up to be more of an attacking player, which has paid off nicely with his ability to either score himself or set up his teammates.

    He may not be on the level of others on this list, but Gareth Bale's move is a notable one, nevertheless.

Anthony Davis

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    There's a reason why longtime sports reporter Bill Simmons chose New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis as the most untradeable player in terms of value in the entire league. It's because The Brow has the skills of a point guard trapped in a power forward's body.

    While there have been other stretch bigs in the NBA who can step out and stroke it like smaller guys can, Davis is a rare specimen who can handle the rock like a guard because, well, up until his junior year of high school, he was one.

    It wasn't until a growth spurt between his junior and senior years as a prep star that the two-time All-Star changed positions and became the big man that he is today.

    Still raw for the first couple of years in the league, Davis broke out in a big way this season, showing that he is scary good thanks to his experience as a guard and development as a forward.

Craig Biggio

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    Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

    Playing his entire 20-year career for the Houston Astros, Hall of Famer Craig Biggio proved that he would do anything to help that franchise win—even if it meant jumping around to different positions.

    Beginning his career as a catcher, Biggio became a four-time Gold Glove winner at second base, earning six All-Star appearances in the process and establishing himself as one of the better defensive middle infielders during his heyday.

    Rather than keep Biggio there, though, Houston moved him to the outfield for two years at age 37 before surprisingly having him end his career back at second for his final three seasons in the majors.

    Although he might not appear to be a great athlete, Biggio showed he definitely was one by adjusting his game to a number of different spots on the baseball diamond.

Miguel Cabrera

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    There aren't many players in MLB history who have accomplished the things that Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers has.

    In addition to his World Series ring that he earned as a rookie with the then-Florida Marlins, Miggy has shown that he's one of the most dialed-in hitters ever, earning seven top-5 finishes for league MVP—winning two—as well as becoming the first player since 1967 to win the Triple Crown following his superb 2012 season.

    This all goes without saying that he has hopped all over the baseball field, too, as he began his career as an outfielder, then moved to third base and, finally, went to the other side of the infield as a first baseman.

    Cabrera might be best-known as the game's most dangerous hitter, yet he has shown good versatility by adjusting to a number of different positions in his career, too.

Hines Ward

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Is former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward a Hall of Famer? That's a debate for another day.

    What's not debatable is that Ward, who began his collegiate career for the Georgia Bulldogs as a quarterback, made the right move by grabbing some receiver's gloves to start hauling in passes rather than throwing them.

    After inconsistencies as a signal-caller in college led him to a position change for his final two years in Athens, the Steelers selected Ward in the third round in 1998, which proved to be really smart.

    One of the franchise's all-time leading ball-catchers, Ward played with a mean streak and edge that the Steelers franchise has long been known for, earning four Pro Bowl berths and winning two Super Bowls with the team during his 14 NFL seasons.

Robin Yount

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Playing his entire 20-year MLB career for the Milwaukee Brewers, it's easy to forget about how great Hall of Famer Robin Yount really was.

    Only playing in two postseasons and losing in his only appearance in the World Series, the three-time All-Star may not have gotten as much love as other guys during his playing days because of whom he played for, but that doesn't mean Yount wasn't a superb ballplayer.

    Need proof? How about the fact that Yount won the AL MVP in 1982 while still a shortstop for the team, then won it again seven seasons later after making the switch to the outfield.

    Sure, the move was defensive and not at the plate, but it takes a combination of both to be named a league's most valuable, which makes Yount's career pretty special.

Charles Woodson

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    Eric Risberg/Associated Press

    About to enter his 18th NFL season, former Heisman Trophy-winner Charles Woodson might just find himself in Canton as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame a few years after he finally retires.

    Flashing the skills that have made him so great for all these years once again in 2014, Woodson hasn't been doing it from his usual cornerback position in recent seasons, being switched to the safety position for good in 2012 while still with the Green Bay Packers.

    A former NFL Defensive Player of the Year while still at the corner spot, Woodson might not have had to change his playmaking skills too much by moving to a different spot in the secondary, but he still made the transition seamlessly, picking off six passes in his 39 starts as a safety.

Alex Rodriguez

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Yes, the reputation of Alex Rodriguez took a hit when he was suspended for the 2014 season because of PEDs, but that doesn't necessarily mean that his entire 21-year career is tarnished.

    One of the best hitting shortstops that the game has ever seen early on in his career, A-Rod found himself forced to shift over to third base when the New York Yankees acquired him before the 2004 season, because some dude named Derek Jeter had already occupied that position.

    After having won two Gold Gloves at short, Rodriguez made the move to third look pretty simple, being selected to seven All-Star Games and winning two AL MVPs since starting at the hot corner.

Cal Ripken Jr.

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    One of the more famous position changes in MLB history, when the Baltimore Orioles moved Iron Man Cal Ripken Jr. from shortstop to third base as he got into the twilight of his career, Ripken showed that he could still hack it.

    Although Cal never won a Gold Glove for his defensive work after the switch, he did find his way onto the AL All-Star team in each of his five years at the hot corner, proving that he really did age like fine wine during his 21 years in the big leagues.

    To this day, one of the better moments in the Midsummer Classic's history was when Cal was moved back to his shortstop position during his final All-Star appearance—one in which he won the game's MVP award.

J.J. Watt

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    As a two-time winner of the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award, most fans know that the Houston Texans' J.J. Watt is a bad, bad man when it comes to causing havoc as a defender.

    While Watt is, without a doubt, the most feared pass-rusher in the game right now, he nearly found himself on the other side of the ball, catching passes full-time.

    That's because, while playing for the Wisconsin Badgers in college, Watt actually began his career as a tight end instead of a behemoth of a tackler—which every NFL quarterback would have really enjoyed him sticking with.

    Showing that he still has some of those receiving skills by hauling in three touchdown catches in 2014, things could have been very different had he stuck to the offensive side of the ball rather than switching to the defensive front.

Ernie Banks

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Known as Mr. Cub due of his affiliation and heartbreak with the Chicago Cubs for 19 seasons, MLB Hall of Famer Ernie Banks knew that leading by example was more important than leading by inspiring teammates through words.

    Maybe that's why Banks, a two-time NL MVP and 16-time All-Star, moved around the baseball field throughout his career.

    Starting 1,226 games at first base for the Cubbies, Banks played nearly as much at shortstop for the team, starting 1,121 games in the middle of the infield, where he earned seven of his All-Star appearances.

    Those aren't the only two places Banks saw time, though, as he also played third base and the outfield, proving that he was as much of a team player as he was a good guy—which is why the entire North Side of Chicago adored him.

Pete Rose

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    The all-time hits leader in MLB history, former Cincinnati Reds star Pete Rose is known as one of the best, most passionate players to ever suit up in the big leagues.

    Nicknamed Charlie Hustle, Rose proved day in and day out that he would do anything possible to give his team a chance to win—which also meant changing positions a few times.

    A 17-time All-Star selection, Rose moved around the baseball field plenty during his 24 seasons, beginning at second base with the Reds, moving to the outfield and then third base before finishing his career as a first baseman while playing with the Philadelphia Phillies.

    He might not be in the Hall of Fame, but Rose is, without a doubt, one of the best baseball players ever.


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