- C, DH
- December 30, 1976
- 6' 3"
- 230 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-09-1998 with MIN
Anthony John "A. J." Pierzynski was born December 30, 1976 in Bridgehampton, New York. He went to high school with Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Johnny Damon.
Pierzynski is known for having a strong and colorful personality. During the White Sox victory parade in 2005, he thanked team personnel "for putting up with me." His Chicago manager, Ozzie Guillen, is quoted as saying, "If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less." Guillen also acknowledged Pierzynki's value to the club, despite being relatively high-maintenance: "A.J.'s been great for me. He's worth the work because he always shows up for you."
Pierzynski graduated from high school in 1994. and signed a letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Tennessee. Also drafted by the Minnesota Twins that year, and he chose to sign with the Twins. He spent the next four years playing for the minor-league Elizabethton Twins, Fort Wayne Wizards, Fort Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats, and Salt Lake Buzz.
After four years, he was called up to the Major League Twins team, debuting on September 9, 1998. He then spent five seasons, through 2003, with Minnesota. From 1998-2000, he appeared in just 49 games for the Twins. In 2002 he made the American League All-Star Team as a reserve catcher. In the 2002 American League Division Series, Pierzynski hit a home run in the ninth inning of the final game, in which the Twins clinched the series. In 2003, Pierzynski had a .312 batting average.
San Francisco Giants
After the 2003 season, the Twins traded Pierzynski to the San Francisco Giants for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser. He spent one season in San Francisco before leaving as a free agent.
Chicago White Sox
Pierzynski was signed as a free agent by the Chicago White Sox on January 6, 2005.
On October 12, 2005, Pierzynski was involved in a key play in Game 2 of the 2005 American League Championship Series versus the Los Angeles Angels. With the score tied and two out in the bottom of the ninth, with two strikes, Pierzynski swung at a low pitch from Angels pitcher Kelvim Escobar and missed, for strike three. Josh Paul, the Angels catcher, rolled the ball to the mound and left the infield. Pierzynski realized strike three had been called, but he had not been called out and ran to first base in case the umpire had ruled that the Angels catcher had not legally caught the strike three pitch (see Uncaught third strike rule). Home plate umpire Doug Eddings indeed ruled that the ball hit the ground and then went into the catcher's glove, meaning Pierzynski was safe at first. A pinch-runner, Pablo Ozuna, replaced Pierzynski and stole second base. Third baseman Joe Crede hit a double three pitches later, scoring Ozuna for the winning run.
In 2006, Pierzynski was named one of the five American League players in the All-Star Final Vote. The Chicago White Sox organization began an election campaign using the slogan "Punch A.J." The "Punch A.J." campaign was inspired by an incident on May 20, 2006 between Pierzynski and Chicago Cubs catcher Michael Barrett. After a fly ball out, Pierzynski tagged up at 3rd and tried to score on the throw. Pierzynski knocked Barrett off his feet at home, then slapped home plate with his hand. Barrett punched him in the face. A bench-clearing brawl ensued, and Pierzynski, Barrett, White Sox outfielder Brian Anderson and Cubs first baseman John Mabry were ejected from the game. Pierzynski received 3.6 million votes from the campaign, the most votes in the American League, which sent him to his second All-Star.
Pierzynski holds the AL record for consecutive errorless chances with 962, breaking Yogi Berra's previous record of 950, set in 1959.
Among active catchers with at least 600 games played, going into the 2010 season he was third with a .995 career fielding percentage, behind Mike Redmond (.996) and Joe Mauer (.995), and ahead of Brad Ausmus (.994).
A.J. was hired by Fox to be an analyst for the 2011 MLB postseason on the pre-game and postgame show.
Pierzynski then made his professional wrestling managerial debut at TNA Turning Point 2005 on December 11, 2005, accompanying Torborg, Sabin and Dutt to ringside for their match against the Diamonds in the Rough.
Pierzynski is currently married to Lisa Pierzynski. The couple have two children, Ava and Austin.
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