- C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS
- May 14, 1969
- 5' 11"
- 190 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 7-28-1993 with SDN
- Allstar Selections:
- 2001 GG, 2002 GG, 2006 GG
A die-hard Red Sox fan who attended Carl Yastrzemski's last game in 1983, Ausmus set two goals for himself as a youth: to become a major-league ballplayer, and to attend Dartmouth. Both dreams came true. Ausmus graduated with a degree in government in 1991, and later became a solid big-league backstop, known for his strong arm and smart handling of pitchers. Ausmus, who played high school ball with future NHL defenseman Brian Leetch, was selected by the New York Yankees in the 47th round of the 1987 draft. He initially refused to sign, but eventually relented when the Yankees agreed to allow him to attend classes at Dartmouth while working his way up the minor-league ladder. Ausmus moved to the Colorado Rockies organization in the 1992 expansion draft, and finally made it to the majors when he was traded to the San Diego Padres midway through the 1993 season.
Ausmus was pressed into duty as the regular catcher on the last-place Padres, a team that had used four other catchers that season in an effort to replace the departed Benito Santiago. He kept the job for three years, maturing as a hitter and continuing to enhance his reputation behind the plate. He nabbed 39% of opposing baserunners in 1995, second in the NL only to the Marlins' Charles Johnson, and swiped 16 bases himself, the most by any catcher since Craig Biggio stole 19 in 1991.
But Ausmus -- a notoriously slow starter -- hit just .184 in 103 at-bats to begin the 1996 season, and lost his starting job to Brian Johnson in May. A month later, he was traded to Detroit with Andujar Cedeno for John Flaherty and Chris Gomez. After the season, he was sent back to the National League as part of a ten-player deal between Detroit and Houston.
In his first year with the Astros, Ausmus appeared in a career-high 130 games, garnering more than 100 hits, 20 doubles and 40 RBI for the first time in his career and leading the league in caught-stealing percentage. The following season, he finished second to Charles Johnson in the NL Gold Glove voting but was traded back to Detroit in January.
"I don't put up All-Star-type numbers," Ausmus always insisted, but he finally earned a chance to attend the Midsummer Classic as the lone Tigers representative in 1999. He had been selected by Yankees manager Joe Torre, who had no idea that Ausmus' old room in Connecticut still featured a prominent sign: "Yankees Stink."
Ausmus usually hit second for the Tigers, but started seven games in the leadoff spot --the first Tigers catcher to do so since Bruce Kimm in 1976. He had also never before appeared in more than 130 games as a catcher, but in 2000 Ausmus caught 150 games, starting 140. In doing so, Ausmus also set the AL single-season record for fewest passed balls. However, he didn't seem to impress the Tigers enough, because he was returned to the Astros in a six-player deal in December.
In 2001, he led the NL with a .997 fielding percentage and only one passed ball, had the second best caught-stealing percentage (47.7%) in the majors, and won the first of two consecutive National League Gold Gloves with the Astros. He led the league again with a .997 fielding percentage and an 8.40 range factor, while being charged with only two passed balls in 2002. In 2003, Ausmus had a .997 fielding percentage, for the third season in a row. He led the league with a .999 fielding percentage, 884 putouts, and 134 games caught in 2005.
Ausmus led the league again in a league-leading 138 games caught with a .998 fielding percentage (the fifth-best of any catcher ever at the time) and a 7.94 range factor, with a league-leading 929 putouts and only one passed ball, and won his third Gold Glove in 2006. That year he caught the second-most games ever by a catcher at the age of 37 — only Bob Boone, with 147 games, caught more at that age.
He made his franchise-record eighth Opening Day start at catcher for the Astros in 2007, breaking a tie with Alan Ashby. On July 22 of that year, Ausmus passed Gary Carter to move into sole possession of second place in major league career putouts by a catcher. In addition, he passed Ted Simmons that day to take sole possession of 12th place all-time on the games caught list, with 1,772. In 2007, he had the second-best fielding percentage (.995) and range factor (8.04) of all catchers in the NL, while being charged with only two passed balls.
In 2008, Ausmus was also an "emergency infielder" for the Astros. In April, he played second base in the ninth inning of a game, and later in the season he played first base and third base. In 2005, he even played an inning at shortstop. Through 2008, Ausmus ranked ninth all-time in games caught (1,887) and starts at catcher (1,720).
Ausmus's 1,141 games at catcher in that decade ranked second in the majors. As of July 12, 2009, he was third all-time among catchers in fielding percentage.
Among active catchers with at least 600 games played, he finished the 2009 season ranked tied for fourth with a .994 career fielding percentage behind Mike Redmond (.996), Joe Mauer (.996), and A.J. Pierzynski (.995).
He finished his career in 2010 ranked third in major league history with 12,839 putouts as a catcher, trailing only Iván Rodríguez and Jason Kendall, seventh in games caught with 1,938, and 10th in both range factor/game (7.12) and fielding percentage (.994). For his career, he threw out 30.2% of potential basestealers.
Prior to 2009, Ausmus had played in the postseason five times, all with the Astros, including the 2005 World Series. In Game 4 of the 2005 National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, Ausmus homered with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game at 6–6 and send it to extra innings; the Astros went on to win in the 18th inning, in what was the longest postseason game in history. Ausmus caught all 18 innings.
San Diego Padres (2010–present)
In November 2010, the San Diego Padres hired Ausmus as Special Assistant to Baseball Operations. Ausmus lives in San Diego.
National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame
Ausmus was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2001 he did not play on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, quipping that he "was trying to atone for my poor first half."
"I have had quite a few young Jewish boys who will tell me that I am their favorite player, or they love watching me play or they feel like baseball is a good fit for them because it worked for me, or it worked for Shawn Green or other Jewish players at the Major League level," said Ausmus. "It has been a sense of pride. If you can have a positive impact on a kid, I'm all for it."
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- Brad Ausmus