No position too difficult for these guys

Originally Published: June 21, 2004
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN Insider
Ryan Freel displayed his hyper-aggressive tendencies during a Cincinnati-Los Angeles game in May, when he jumped several rows into the Dodger Stadium stands in pursuit of a Paul Lo Duca foul ball and accidentally kicked an elderly woman in the head.

Freel felt bad about the repercussions, but didn't regret going all out. He's hard-wired that way -- something umpire Eric Cooper discovered recently when Freel grilled him on the ground rules before a game at Wrigley Field.

Freel asked Cooper if it's permissible to jump on the railing and then on top of the dugout in pursuit of a ball. Then he asked Cooper if it's OK to jump on the camera beside the dugout and use it as a springboard into the stands.

"Eric just looked at me and said, 'Do you have some kind of disease, bro'?' " Freel said. "Everybody here thinks I'm a little bit wacko anyway, but I don't care."

Freel, the closest thing to a perpetual-motion machine in Cincinnati since Chris Sabo hit town in the late 1980s, just wants a chance to play. Precisely where is irrelevant.

While Sean Casey continues his push for MVP consideration, Ken Griffey Jr. is now part of the 500 club and Paul Wilson remains unbeaten at 7-0, it's tough to overlook Freel's contribution in Cincinnati. He's already started games at second base, third base and all three outfield positions, and he will gladly catch, pitch or appear anywhere else manager Dave Miley desires.

For teams with an abundance of injuries or a short bench because they're carrying 12-man pitching staffs, players with the versatility of a Ryan Freel can be lifesavers. So why don't more players give it a try? Probably because you have to be fearless, ego-less, and immune to embarrassment. And if you can make $3 million a year as a mediocre regular, why bother?

Freel thrives by constantly reminding himself that baseball is, at its core, a simple game. "My attitude is, see it, pick it up and throw it," he said. "As a kid, you'd play every position, and you wouldn't give a (bleep). But you didn't have 30,000 people watching you, either."

Here are 10 big leaguers who stand out as "super-utility" players. They all have played a minimum of four positions this season while adhering to the old Tony Phillips creed: When the manager asks if you can play a position, never say no. Just shut up and grab a glove.

Jerry Crasnick | email

ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer

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