Nov 4, 2014

Italian / American All Around Utility Man: Nick Punto (2001-2014)

Nicholas Paul Punto was born on November 8, 1977 in San Diego, California.

The scrappy infielder was raised in Mission Viejo getting selected out of high school by the Twins down in the 33rd round but did not sign in 1997. He then signed with the Phillies the next season getting selected in the 22nd round. He hit .305 at Clearwater in A ball in 1999, then fell off the next two seasons.

He had cups of coffee with the Phillies in 2001 & 2002 then while hitting .317 after 25 games in AAA Wilkes Barre in 2003 he was brought back up. In the off season he was traded to the Twins with Carlos Silva for pitcher Eric Milton.

Punto settled in with hustle & nonstop determination, & by 2005 became an everyday player in Ron Gardenhire’s line up. He played a solid defense at third, second, short & occasionally in the outfield.  His aggressive style of play got him labeled as one of the four Twins “piranhas” by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. In 2006 he had career highs batting .290 with 133 hits, 17 stolen bases, 21 doubles & 7 triples. He had a .352 on base percentage & was second in the league with 10 sacrifice hits. 
Post Season: In the post season he struggled, going 2-12 against Oakland in the ALDS.

The following season his average fell off to .210 and he drove in 20 fewer runs as he struggled at the plate but still stole 16 bases. In an interview that season Punto said, "I take too much pride in my defense to ever let offensive struggles affect me or affect my team. The one thing I can control is how I play defense."

That he did, as he was third best in the league posting a .973 fielding percentage for all third baseman. His teammates call him the “human highlight reel” because of his splendid defensive play.

In 2008 he played in the World Baseball Classic for Team Italy, & then signed a $8.5 million deal for two seasons back with the Twins.

He raised his average up 74 points to .284 stealing another 15 bases with 19 doubles.

In 2009 he missed time playing in 125 games batting only .228. He had a good ALDS batting .444 (4-9) with three walks & an RBI. He suffered through more injuries in 2010, eventually losing his everyday job at third to Danny Valencia. But his versatility kept him playing as JJ Hardy & Orlando Hudson went down with injuries at second & short. He finished the year batting .238 with 20 RBIs & 6 steals in 88 games.

In 2011 he played 63 games as a utility player for the St. Louis Cardinals batting .278 with one HR & 20 RBIs. He signed on as a free agent with the Boston Red Sox for 2012.

In late August he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the mega deal that brought Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford & Josh Beckett to Los Angeles.

In 2013 Punto became a valuable asset to the first place Dodgers, getting himself into 116 games playing at short stop (49 games) third base (35 games) & second base (33 games) as well as a pinch hitter. Punto hit .255 with 2 HRs, 15 doubles, 3 stolen bases 21 RBIs & a .328 on base %. He went 2-6 in the NLCS loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

In 2014 he wa signed by the Oakland A's & got to another post season. Punto would be a top utility man again, playing at second base (52 games) short stop (17 games) third base (2 games) & at in the DH spot as well. 

Punto with Italian / American Actor Danny Devito
He hit just .207 with two HRs, 21 runs scored & 14 RBIs. He went 0-2 in the AL Wild Card Game loss to the Kansas City Royals.

In his 14 year career he is batting .245 with 19 HRs 141 doubles 25 triples 263 RBIs 104 stolen bases & a .323 on base %.

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