Shohei Ohtani has made waves throughout Major League Baseball this year for being a rare two-way player in the big leagues — that is, being able to consistently pitch and hit.
It’s something that is common in the high school and lower ranks — players will consistently pitch and play a position in the field during the course of a season. As you get to college, those players become less common — and they become extremely rare in the pros.
The Junction City Brigade have one of those players — Aaron Samaniego. He plays a variety of roles, including in the lineup, in the field and on the mound.
“Aaron, he’s a legit two-way guy,” head coach Derek Francis said. “He’s really good defensively at third base, he’s our three-hole every day, and we like to see him on the mound, too, to close the ballgames out.”
It’s something that is common for Samaniego, who just completed his freshman year at Howard College in Texas. He’s an infielder and pitcher for the Hawks there, too, and he’s been playing in both roles — as a hitter and a pitcher — for quite some time.
“I’ve been playing third for a while, so I kind of know how it goes,” Samaniego said. “And I’ve been pitching since I can remember. When I’m at third, I don’t throw a lot because I want to save my arm for when I get to the mound.”
As a manager, Francis admits it’s a little tricky managing the lineup with a two-way player.
“You always want him in the lineup as a bat,” he said. “It gets a little tricky as far as when to put him in the game.”
The Mid-Plains League traditionally uses a designated hitter. Keeping Samaniego in the lineup, but moving him to the pitcher’s mound, means the Brigade would lose the designated hitter spot in the lineup. Therefore, if someone were to pitch after Samaniego, they would have to hit, or Francis would have to summon a pinch-hitter for the pitcher.
“Luckily for us, he’s more of the closer type, so we wait until the eighth or ninth inning,” Francis said.
Samaniego enjoys both roles — pitching and hitting. he knows that he always has a chance to redeem himself if one aspect of his game isn’t “on.”
“If I’m not having a good day at third, and they bring me in (to pitch), I can make up for it being on the mound,” he said.
Still, he smiles as he says as he enjoys fielding more — “I like hitting.”