ZEBULON — By the end of a Carolina Mudcats game last weekend, the lineup card read rf-cf-lf-1b-2b-ss-3b-c-p next to Justin Tooles name.
With the season winding down and no chance at the playoffs for the Mudcats, Edwin Rodriguez wanted to reward the club he called the best team he has ever managed strong words coming from the former manager of the Florida Marlins.
Last Saturday night, he compensated his team by allowing them to switch positions and simply have fun. For Toole, an everyday infielder, the positions changed every inning.
Toole started in right field and played every position for one inning before finishing the night on the mound.
It was just a ton of fun for me, Toole said. I am very fortunate to have a coaching staff that was willing to let me do that. We just kind of ran with it and our whole team had a great time.
Toole finished the night 1-for-4 at the plate with two strikeouts and two runs allowed on the mound both of which were solo home runs and called pitches for Rob Nixon during a two-strikeout shutout inning in the eighth.
Toole was not the only player switching things up. As a group, the other nine players changed positions a total of 24 times. Nixon moved to right field for the final frame.
I think that other guys on the team got a kick out of moving to different positions, Toole said. Guys like Tony Wolters and Ronny Rodriguez, who normally play middle infield positions, said it was cool to get out of the everyday normalcy of their positions.
The night was known on Twitter as #TooleTime. The hashtag was used to promote the event, which brought in nearly 6,000 fans.
While Toole was the story of the night, the Mudcats won the game, 4-2, over the Salem Red Sox thanks in large part to eight shutout innings by Jordan Cooper and Rob Nixon. Cooper earned pitcher of the week honors after his performance.
The week prior was spent training for the feat, and Toole said Rodriguez set some guidelines before the game.
I had played every position growing up, but I needed some practice, Toole said. Edwin told me that I would have to throw some bullpen sessions and catch some sessions as well. So it wasnt like I just went out there and did it. I had to prepare all week for it.
Only four other players have played all nine positions in the Major Leagues Bert Campaneris for the Kansas City Athletics, Cesar Tovar for the Minnesota Twins, Scott Sheldon for the Texas Rangers and Shane Halter for the Detroit Tigers. The only player in Mudcats history was Gregory Edge in 1991.
Rodriguez said he was told about Tooles versatility, but he knew the former Iowa Hawkeye was special when he asked around among his former coaches.
They told me he wasnt just a utility player for a few positions, he could play anywhere, Rodriguez said. When we started the season, he said was willing to play anywhere I put him. That is so valuable to not only our team, but to the entire organization. He is really a special player.