Ray Chang was given a choice. He could do something memorable or nothing at all. He chose the former.
The Reds infield prospect played all nine positions in the field while going 3-for-4 at the plate in Double-A Pensacola's 4-2 loss to visiting Mobile in the regular-season finale Monday at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium.
"I came into the clubhouse today and our manager, Pat Kelly, came in and asked me if I wanted the day off or if I wanted to play all nine," said Chang, a shortstop by trade. "I mean, it came out of nowhere, it surprised me, but for me that's an easy answer. I wanted to play."
The practice is not uncommon for Minor League teams on the final day of the regular season. Tigers farmhand Mike Hessman accomplished the feat with the Triple-A Mud Hens in 2009, while former Brave Justin Toole pulled it off in 2012 for the then-Class A Advanced Mudcats before authoring a book on the experience. Last season, it was Brewers prospect Nathan Orf's turn with the Class A Advanced Brevard County Manatees.
Chang has made at least one appearance at every position outside of catcher in his 11-year Minor League career, but that didn't make him any less nervous as he ventured into more unfamiliar territory.
"When I went around the infield, I felt pretty comfortable obviously, but once I got into the outfield my heart started racing a little bit," he said. "Luckily I didn't get any fly balls."
The Missouri native was not involved in a single defensive play through the first seven innings as he made the rounds of the four infield positions and each outfield spot. That is, until the Blue Wahoos skipper put him behind the plate, the position the 32-year-old had been dreading most.
"I've caught bullpens, but with a batter standing in the box, I mean that was just a whole different ball game," Chang said.
With right-hander Zack Weiss on the mound, he called a scoreless eighth that included strikeouts of Will Locante and Raul Navarro. Of all his accomplishments Monday, he said nothing surprised him more.
"With catching, there's so many more things running through my head and I just couldn't slow the game down, everything was happening so fast," Chang said. "I'm just glad it was a quick, quick eighth inning."
At the start of the ninth, he found himself in a more familiar place on the mound.
"I used to pitch whenever I was in high school, and I knew I wanted to be a pitcher in college and hopefully in pro ball," the Rockhurst University product said. "Unfortunately, my arm kind of gave away and I had to stick with infield, so every time I get a chance to throw, I take it to heart."
In the fifth pitching appearance of his Minor League career, Chang retired all three batters he faced on four pitches -- two fastballs and two knuckleballs -- the last on an impressive leaping catch by rehabbing Cincinnati outfielder Billy Hamilton on a well-struck ball by Mark Thomas.
"Thanks to the hitters on Mobile," Chang said with a laugh. "They kept on swinging at the first pitch and I'll definitely take it. The last guy hit the ball that Billy caught. He made an unbelievable play. It was actually a knuckleball that didn't knuckle. It was just a terrible pitch, but I'm glad Billy tracked it down for me."
Chang still wasn't done. The veteran ripped a single to center in the bottom of the ninth, stole his first base of the season and came home on a two-run homer by Zach Vincej.
A fan favorite in Pensacola -- where he has found a home over the past three seasons -- Chang even got to take his first curtain call. With the Blue Wahoos down, 4-2, the fans kept chanting his name.
"The fans here have been unbelievable," Chang said. "I've been here the last three years and gotten to know them pretty well.
"That was an awesome feeling. You see it on TV all the time, and you're always thinking one of these days you'll get an opportunity to do it. The fact that I got a chance to, that was pretty cool. I mean, it was just an overall pretty sweet day."
Alex Kraft is a contributor to MiLB.com.