In the history of Major League Baseball, only five men have played all nine positions in the course of a single game. In Minor League Baseball, however, this idiosyncratic feat is much more common. In fact, it's a Labor Day weekend tradition.
While no one played all nine positions in the Minor Leagues last year, this writer was able to find a whopping nine occurrences of the feat between 2014-18 alone. It almost always happens during Labor Day weekend -- often on Labor Day itself -- because that's when the Minor League regular season ends. If a team's place in the standings already has been determined, such a stunt allows a manager to add both levity and intrigue to the waning moments of a grueling season. The players given the opportunity to accomplish the feat will never forget it. Justin Toole, who played all nine positions for the Carolina Mudcats in 2012, wrote a book about the experience.
So, without further ado, here are nine recent instances of players playing nine positions in nine innings. Here's to seeing it happen again on Labor Day 2021:
Aug. 31, 2014: Nate Orf, Brevard County Manatees
Entering the final day of the Florida State League season, Orf already had appeared at six different positions for the Manatees. On that final day, against Dunedin, manager Joe Ayrault gave him the opportunity to play all nine. Orf began his day behind the plate -- No. 2 on your scorecard -- and played each subsequent position in numerical order. Orf began the ninth on the pitcher's mound - No. 1 on your scorecard -- and was removed after retiring the lone batter he faced. He then played a 10th position, of sorts, in the bottom of the ninth, taking the field as the first base coach. At the plate, Orf went 0-for-2 with a walk as the Manatees lost to the Blue Jays by a score of 7-3.
He said it: "For me, [the best part] was getting off the field after the final out and tipping my hat to the crowd. It was a special moment and it was a special season." --Orf, to MiLB.com's Kelsie Heneghan.
Sept. 7, 2015: Ray Chang, Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Chang, a shortstop by trade, played all over the infield and outfield during the first seven innings of the Blue Wahoos' Labor Day matinee vs. the Mobile BayBears. Over that time, nary a ball was hit to him. Then came the hard part. The 32-year-old made his catching debut in the eighth, which turned out to be a no-fuss, no-muss scoreless frame. He came on to pitch the ninth, needing only four pitches to cruise through a 1-2-3 inning. Chang went 3-for-4 at the dish on this busy afternoon and even stole his first base of the season, but it wasn't enough as the Blue Wahoos lost by a score of 4-2.
He said it: "Thanks to the hitters on Mobile. They kept on swinging at the first pitch and I'll definitely take it." --Chang told MiLB.com's Alex Kraft in recapping his pitching performance.
Sept. 3, 2016: Melvin Mercedes, Stockton Ports
Mercedes played 'em all on a Saturday evening in Stockton, during the antepenultimate game of the season for the A's Class A Advanced affiliate. He already was an experienced diamond traveler, having played six positions on the season, so he was ready for the "nine in nine" task assigned to him by Ports manager Rick Magnante. Mercedes began at third base, his natural position, then methodically moved around the infield in a leftward direction. He caught a scoreless fifth inning, then manned the outfield in the sixth, seventh and eighth. In the ninth, Mercedes appeared on the mound for the third time in 2016. He hurled a scoreless frame, issuing one walk, as the Ports defeated the visiting Bakersfield Blaze by a score of 8-3. Mercedes went 1-for-4 at the plate, doubling to lead off the first and coming around to score.
He said it: "It felt great to see the view from every position. I kept thinking about how cool it was that I got to see the game from the perspective of each different player." --Mercedes told MiLB.com's Michael Leboff.
Sept. 5, 2016: Wade Kirkland, Midland RockHoundsOn Labor Day, Kirkland became the second A's prospect in three days to play all nine positions in a game (Mercedes was the first, of course). His Midland RockHounds were the visiting team, ultimately losing to the Frisco RoughRiders by a score of 5-1. The RoughRiders didn't need their turn at bat in the ninth, but no matter: Kirkland played all nine positions in only eight innings. He opened the eighth on the mound, surrendered a double to the only batter he faced, then closed out the game -- and the season -- at first base. Kirkland went 1-for-4 at the dish, lining a single to right field in the third.
He said it: "I threw one curveball, I threw some fastballs. The guy [Joe Jackson] who hit the double off me, we know each other fairly well, so it was all in good fun." --Kirkland told MiLB.com's Robert Emrich.
Sept. 3, 2017: Blake Butler, Daytona Tortugas
Daytona hosted the Florida Fire Frogs on the final day of the Florida State League season, cruising to a 3-0 victory. Butler went 0-for-3 but nonetheless was the star of the show. The 23-year-old, who already had seen action at seven positions in 2017, played all nine. He started at first base and shifted rightward across the infield before moving on to left, center and right field. The ball continually found him, as he made a putout in five of the first six innings. After catching the eighth inning, his first time ever behind the plate, Butler faced an even bigger challenge. He came in to pitch the ninth, tasked with preserving a three-run lead. That, he did, allowing two hits en route to the save. It turned out to be the final moment of Butler's professional career -- he was released by the Reds the following month.
He said it: "I do pride myself on my versatility and, hopefully, that's going to be something that takes me to the next level and the level after that and, hopefully, the big leagues." -- told MiLB.com's Josh Jackson.
Sept. 4, 2017: River Stevens, Lake Elsinore Storm
One day and three time zones later, Stephens joined Butler in the 2017 "played all nine positions in a game" club. His Lake Elsinore Storm were the visiting team, wrapping up the California League season in Rancho Cucamonga. Stevens, like Kirkland a year earlier, ended up playing all nine positions in the span of eight innings. He spent the first three innings in the outfield, then the next four in the infield. The former ninth-round pick began the eighth on the mound and loaded the bases on a hit and two walks while failing to record an out. At that point, Stevens donned the tools of ignorance. Trevor Frank came out of the bullpen for Lake Elsinore and worked out of the jam he inherited from the man who was now his catcher. Nonetheless, the Storm fell to Rancho Cucamonga by a score of 2-0.
He said it: "I asked [manager Edwin Rodriguez], 'What are the chances I could play all nine positions in the nine innings?' And I was thinking that he was going to shoot it down just because I didn't know if they'd allow it. And he totally caught me by surprise and was like, 'Yeah, let's do it.' I was like, 'Really? Let's do it.'" --Stevens told MiLB.com's Andrew Battifarano.
Sept. 2, 2018: Nash Knight, Dunedin Blue Jays
It took 10 innings for the Daytona Tortugas to eke out a 6-5 win over the Blue Jays in the 2018 Florida State League finale, which meant that Knight got to spend the final two innings in right field. Before that, the native of Denton, Texas, had been all over the diamond, starting at catcher, working his way through the infield, moving to the outfield and, with one out in the sixth, coming in to pitch for the fourth time that season. He allowed a single to Alberti Chavez, the only batter he faced, then returned to the outfield. Chavez came around to score, raising Knight's ERA to 3.86 for the season.
He said it: "I walked into today and saw my name on the lineup card with a '2' next to it, so I figured there was something different," Knight told MiLB.com's Josh Horton.
Sept. 3, 2018: Hernan Iribarren, Louisville Bats
The 2018 season was the 15th -- and, as it turned out, final -- one of Iribarren's career. He closed it in style, playing all nine as the Bats lost to Indianapolis by a score of 4-0. The Venezuela native was called on to pitch with one out in the fifth, facing Indianapolis pitcher Tyler Eppler. Somewhat improbably, Eppler legged out an infield hit on a 1-1 pitch. Iribarren did not get a hit, but he already had plenty. He totaled 1,510 in his Minor League career, to go with 19 in three stints (2008, 2009, 2016) at the Major League level. Iribarren also was no stranger to the mound, compiling a commendable 3.04 ERA in 24 career appearances.
Sept. 3, 2018: Brandon Polizzi, Vancouver Canadians
The third and final nine-position man of the 2018 campaign was Polizzi, who achieved the feat as part of the Canadians' 7-4 road win over the Spokane Indians. His accomplishment is shrouded in uncertainty -- at least for this writer -- as it was not covered by my MiLB.com colleagues (save for a passing mention in the story about Iribarren) and the box score lists Polizzi as having only played five positions. But thank goodness for local media, as Dave Nichols of The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review was on the scene and wrote about it. Polizzi, who has not played professionally since the game in question, was unaware he would be playing all nine positions. He began to get wise after manager Dallas McPherson sent him to his third location in as many innings. The 2017 35th-round Draft pick came in to pitch with two outs in the seventh, retiring the lone batter he faced. Then he collected an RBI single in the eighth while batting as the Vancouver pitcher. In the bottom of the frame, he moved behind the plate.
He said it: “We talked about it a little bit. He’s been wanting to pitch. Honestly, it was his teammates that talked me into having him play all nine positions.” --McPherson to Dave Nichols of The Spokesman-Review.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.