Whether they’re willing to admit it or not, every baseball fan has a favourite baseball player. Maybe it’s their favourite team’s current ace, the random right fielder whose jersey they received as a Christmas gift when they were eight years old, or a promising prospect whose career was cut short by injury.
In this new series, we’ll be asking British baseball fans to tell us how their favourite player came to be their favourite player and a whole lot more. To kick things off, we spoke to BatFlips and Nerds editor Charlie Deeks (aka @Omashaft) about his love of former Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
First off, why Andrelton Simmons?
For me, the single best play in baseball is a clean double play. Mashing home runs is cool and all, and it’s fun to see a pitcher paint the corners of the strike zone, but the effortless flow of a routine double play is – in my mind – perfection. The shortstop is usually the architect of the double play – the captain of the infield – and the captain of the early 2010’s Braves infields that I watched and loved was also one of the best defensive shortstops ever to play the game – Andrelton Simmons.
Andrelton was the starting shortstop from the Braves from 2013-2015 and from the moment he made his debut he was the league’s best defender. While we now know that’s the case thanks to advanced defensive metrics (Foolish Baseball does it better than I can here!), he also passed the eye test. I watched every night as he made tough plays look easy while also making the impossible plays just look pretty tough. Whenever the opposition were at the plate, I would sit and hope that they’d hit to him just to see what he would do. Even after Andrelton was traded to the Angels, while the Braves were blessed with another shortstop with elite defense in the form of my second favourite player of all time (and most handsome MLB player in history) Dansby Swanson, I have still never been more confident in a shortstop than I was with Andrelton on the field.
And of course, there were the showstopping highlights. Oh, the highlights! The jump throws, the throws from the floor, the over-the-shoulder grabs, the heads-up plays to fake out baserunners – he seemed to be two steps ahead of everyone else. Any big hitter can hit a home run, any good pitcher can throw a no-hitter, but only Andrelton Simmons could do the things that Andrelton Simmons did.
What’s your earliest memory of watching him play?
The play starting at 2:35 in the video below is the first time I saw him do something and say ‘players can’t usually do this, can they’? Just think about this play for a second – if I told you that the shortstop would make the play with his nearest other defender being the right fielder, would you believe me?
What is your favourite Andrelton Simmons moment?
This one. This is baseball perfection – the greatest defensive play of all time.
Do you own any Andrelton Simmons merchandise?
My favourite baseball jersey, without question, is the cream Simmons jersey I bought in 2014. Since he wasn’t there for too long, it’s hard to find second hand stuff, so this is all I have. It’s the jersey I wear to baseball training. It’s a bit beaten up and way too big for me, but whenever I put it on and stand at short I feel like I can get to anything and make any throw. I’m convinced there’s baseball magic in it.
What’s your favourite highlight?
It’s less of a single highlight and more of a package – someone made a big highlight video of just the defensive highlights of his 2013 season and it’s TWENTY-FIVE MINUTES LONG. Whenever I would be talking to someone about baseball I’d pull up this video and just make them watch Andrelton make stupid throws. It is worth your time.
Featured image: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Charlie Deeks is the Atlanta Braves correspondent on Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @Omashaft