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Watch: Andrew Romine plays all nine positions in one game

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Weird baseball came early to the Tigers this weekend. Instead of allowing Andrew Romine to start at all nine positions on Sunday, as announced, club manager Brad Ausmus decided to have the outfielder go for the feat during Saturday’s 3-2 win over the Twins.

This doesn’t happen often. It’s the kind of end-of-season gimmick that helps draw crowds to a losing team and gives diehard fans a neat piece of trivia. In fact, only four other major league players have ever played all nine positions in a single game: Royals’ shortstop Bert Campaneris (1965), Twins’ infielder/outfielder Cesar Tovar (1968), Rangers’ infielder Scott Sheldon (2000) and Tigers’ infielder Shane Halter (2000). (A bonus fun fact: Ausmus was playing behind the dish on the day that Halter started at all nine positions, per MLB.com’s Jason Beck.)

Here’s how it all went down:

Romine started Saturday’s game in a familiar position, taking his spot in left field for the first inning. He fielded two fly ball outs, but couldn’t quite get to Miguel Sano‘s line drive single in time, and Tigers’ right-hander Buck Farmer walked in a run in the next at-bat.

In the second, Romine shook things up in the outfield. He shifted to center, while right fielder Alex Presley moved to left field and JaCoby Jones left his post in center field to cover right field. This time, no balls were hit in Romine’s direction, and Farmer held the Twins to a solitary walk.

Romine completed his tour of the outfield in the third inning, swapping places with Jones again so he could try out the right field corner. Eddie Rosario slapped a first-pitch single in Romine’s direction, but was left stranded as Sano and Max Kepler went down swinging to end the threat.

With all three outfield positions checked off, Romine changed places with third baseman Nick Castellanos in the fourth inning. Perhaps he’s a magnet: Eduardo Escobar popped out in the first at-bat, sending Romine hustling for the ball in foul territory.

Ausmus inserted Jeimer Candelario as a pinch-hitter in the top of the fifth inning, and the rookie returned to man the hot corner in the bottom of the inning while Romine tried his glove at shortstop. Joe Mauer led off with a walk, but Jorge Polanco gave Romine the opportunity he needed to test his double-play skills, grounding into a 4-6-3 play to catch Mauer at second base.

The Tigers stuck with their by-the-book strategy, keeping Romine moving around the horn in the sixth as he scooted over to second base and Dixon Machado shifted to short. Romine didn’t get any whizbangers here, though, as Chad Bell stepped in to replace Farmer and set down a quick 1-2-3 half-inning.

The real test of the night came in the seventh, when Romine made his first career appearance behind the dish. It’s a position his brother, Yankees’ catcher Austin Romine, is much more familiar with, and one that Andrew didn’t take a special shine to during his brief tryout on Saturday — despite getting to use his brother’s hand-me-down glove. He guided Blaine Hardy through four at-bats (with some generous help from Bryan Holaday at second base), during which Hardy induced a fly out, line drive double, RBI single, and a walk. Romine, meanwhile, contributed his first (and hopefully last) passed ball, and briefly returned to second base while James McCann stepped in to catch the rest of the inning.

Romine’s leash was even shorter when he got on the mound in the eighth. He missed the strike zone with his first two pitches and worked a 3-1 count before inducing a Miguel Sano groundout. That may have been too close for comfort for Ausmus, however, who moved Romine to first base for his ninth and final position of the night.

Romine fielded a routine grounder to end the eighth inning and returned in the bottom of the ninth as the Twins tried to rally for a late lead, capping the Tigers’ win after palming a Zack Granite grounder at first base.

“Right now, I’m just happy we won. I think it’ll kick in a little bit when I go and sit down and celebrate with the guys in the locker room,” the exhausted infielder/outfielder/catcher/pitcher said following the game. “Relief, happiness, you name it, I’m feeling it right now. It’s so much fun.”

Let’s hope he gets a breather tomorrow. He’s earned it.

Consider the Concrete Donut

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Ben Schulman wrote a long, interesting article about stadium architecture over at The Hardball Times today. He asks us to consider the old concrete donut stadiums — multipurpose parks like Three Rivers and The Vet — and to think about what we have gained by their near-extinction. And what we’ve lost.

The article starts out with what I feared would be too much misplaced nostalgia for the Brutalist, functional places that no longer exist outside of Oakland, with the now de rigueur references to astroturf and weird 1970s baseball. It backs away from that early on, though, and presents what I feel is a thoughtful look at the various approaches to building a ballpark. Stadium geeks and architecture geeks will find much to love here.

From a personal perspective, I have a love/hate relationship with newer parks. I spent a good deal of time going to places like Riverfront Stadium when I was a kid and do not miss them at all. But I also think there have been a lot of missteps in the last 25 years or so too.

Most new parks are pleasant and comfortable places to take in a ballgame, but so many of them are totally unimaginative and uninspiring from an architectural point of view. I am not fan of nostalgia, and so many of them — particularly the ones built in the 90s — were fueled by a great deal of misguided retro-ism that looks backwards. I suspect this is the case because either (a) no one had the guts or vision to look forward; and/or (b) they felt they could make easier bucks by catering to people who think everything went to hell once Eisenhower left office than by doing something bold. To be fair, there are examples of newer parks that eschew the faux old-timey vibe to greater degrees — Target Field in Minneapolis and Marlins Park in Miami come to mind — and I tend to prefer those to more backward-looking places. Again, architecturally speaking.

I think the sweet spot — and the linked article touches on this a bit — are ballparks which think bigger than the bland and dreary functionalism of the 1960s and 70s but which eschew derivative, traditionalist approaches. Parks which were built with then-modern sensibilities and saw their vision through without compromise. Dodger Stadium is a fine, modernist example of this. So too is Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, about which I wrote a few years ago. They had a great opportunity to do this in Chicago in the late 80s but muffed it. I think Marlins Park could fall into that category if (a) there is ever anything approaching memorable baseball there; and (b) if they stop being afraid of its bold aspects and stop trying to turn it into a vanilla monument to its vanilla owner. The common denominator, I suppose, is that these parks weren’t and aren’t trying to cater to the childhoods of local fans.

Anyway, good read on a slow news day.