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Bradley David "Brad" Ausmus (born April 14, 1969) is an Americanmarker catcher in Major League Baseball, who is currently a free agent.

Entering the 2009 season, he ranked ninth in major league history in career games as a catcher (1,887), second in putouts (12,473) and total chances (13,489), and third in fielding percentage (.994). He is a three-time Gold Glove Award winner (2001-02, 2006). Through May 31, 2009, he also ranked second all-time among all Jewish major leaguers in career games played (in his 11th game of the season, he took over first place), fifth in hits (1,548), eighth in runs batted in (599; directly behind Mike Lieberthal), and ninth in home runs (79; just behind Ryan Braun), trailing only Hank Greenberg and Shawn Green in all three categories.

He also won the January 2007 Darryl Kile Award "for integrity and courage," presented annually by local chapters of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) to players on the Astros and St. Louis Cardinals.

Early life

High school

Ausmus was born in New Haven, Connecticutmarker. His father, Harry, is a retired professor of European history at Southern Connecticut State Universitymarker, and the author of "A Schopenhauerian Critique of Nietzsche's Thought," which Ausmus calls his "favorite book."

Ausmus was a standout athlete at Cheshire High School as a basketball guard. He was also a star in baseball; as a freshman he was a teammate of National Hockey League defenseman Brian Leetch, who was then a pitcher on the school's Connecticut state championship team in . As a sophomore Ausmus played shortstop and batted .327, as a junior he hit .436, and as a senior he hit .411 and was named the Cheshiremarker Area High School Player of the Year. Was named to the All-State team both his junior and senior years.

Draft and college

Ausmus chose an unusual route to the major leagues. He initially refused to sign with the New York Yankees after the draft, instead choosing to pursue another childhood dream, that of attending Dartmouth Collegemarker. The Yankees allowed him to attend classes at the Ivy League school while playing in the minor leagues during his off terms. (Dartmouth has an unique, quartered academic calendar, giving students more flexibility to do such things.) Given NCAA rules barring paid professional athletes from playing college sports, Ausmus could not play for the Dartmouth Big Green, and instead served as a volunteer coach and bullpen catcher. He graduated in 1991 with a A.B. in Government, and was a member of Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity. While at Dartmouth, the lowest grade he received was a B. In , Ausmus became the first Ivy League catcher to play in the World Series since Dartmouth's Chief Meyers in 1916. Ausmus was also one of six Ivy Leaguers on major league rosters at the beginning of the 2009 season.

Though Ausmus was not drafted until the 48th round of the 1987 draft, of the 1,150 players drafted ahead of him, only Ken Griffey, Jr. is still in the game. Ausmus has also never been on the disabled list in his major league career.

Minor league career

Ausmus spent five years in the Yankees' minor league system with the Gulf Coast Yankees (1988), Oneonta Yankees (1988-89), Prince William Cannons (1990-91), Albany-Colonie Yankees (1991-92) and Columbus Clippers (1992). He was subsequently selected by the Colorado Rockies with the 54th pick of the expansion draft. He spent less than a year in the Colorado organization (with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox) before he was traded to the San Diego Padres with Andy Ashby and Doug Bochtler for Bruce Hurst and Greg Harris in July .

Major league career

San Diego Padres (1993-96)

He made his major league debut two days later, when he started for the Padres against the Chicago Cubs, and had a single in three at bats. In he batted .293, a career best, and stole 16 bases (the most by any catcher since Craig Biggio stole 19 in 1991). Within three years, Ausmus was on the move again. In June 1996, after 149 at bats in which he batted just .181, the Padres traded him, Andújar Cedeño and minor leaguer Russ Spear to the Detroit Tigers for John Flaherty and Chris Gomez.

Detroit Tigers (1996)

Despite bouncing back somewhat in Detroit, hitting .248, Ausmus was again traded in December 1996, along with José Lima, Trever Miller, C. J. Nitkowski and Daryle Ward, to the Houston Astros for Doug Brocail, Brian Hunter, Todd Jones, Orlando Miller, and cash. This marked the first of three times Ausmus would be exchanged between the two teams.

Houston Astros (1997-98)

In January 1999 he was traded by the Astros with C. J. Nitkowski to the Tigers for Paul Bako, Dean Crow, Brian Powell, and minor leaguers Carlos Villalobos and Mark Persails.

Detroit Tigers (1999-2000)

Generally considered light-hitting but sure-handed, Ausmus had his best offensive season in at the age of 30, when he batted .275 and set career highs in on base percentage (.365) and slugging percentage (.415), and made the All-Star team. He was hit by pitches 14 times, sixth in the league and a career high. Ausmus batted leadoff for the Tigers seven times, the first catcher since Bruce Kimm in to do so.

In December 2000, he was traded by the Tigers with Doug Brocail and Nelson Cruz to the Astros for Roger Cedeño, Chris Holt and Mitch Meluskey.

Houston Astros (2001-08)

In November 2003, he signed as a free agent with the Astros, and he did the same in December 2005. In he batted .308 against left-handers, and .364 in situations that were "late and close" (in the seventh inning or later, with the score tied or the tying run on base, at the plate, or on deck). In , he had more walks (51) than strikeouts (48). He batted .304 with two out and runners in scoring position. In , Ausmus hit .230 and set a career high with nine sacrifice hits.

In , Ausmus batted .235, but was tied for second among all National League catchers with six stolen bases. He recorded his 100th career stolen base on July 27, becoming the 21st catcher all time to record that many steals.[139050]

Ausmus, lauded for his baseball smarts and highly regarded by teammates, is widely considered managerial material when his playing career is over [139051]. Ironically, Garner was fired on August 27.

In October 2007, Ausmus accepted a one-year, $2 million (plus incentives based on playing time) contract. The Astros planned for Ausmus to play on a part-time basis and mentor J. R. Towles, who would catch the majority of the games. Were Towles to struggle, however, the Astros were prepared to turn to Ausmus.

In May 2008, Ausmus (along with Johnny Damon, Andruw Jones, and Derek Lowe) was one of only four active major league players who had played at least 10 years in the majors without ever going on the disabled list .

On May 13, 2008, Ausmus got his 1,500th career hit. He is one of only eight catchers in major league history to get 1,500 hits and steal at least 100 bases.

In early June, with Towles batting only .145, the Astros optioned him to the minors and re-inserted Ausmus as a starter . Towles was replaced by journeyman minor-leaguer Humberto Quintero. Towles eventually came back, but during the season Ausmus, at 39, made more starts behind the plate (61) than either Towles or Quintero.

In July, Ausmus played at Nationals Parkmarker, appearing in his 44th major league stadium. Among active players, only Chris Gomez (47), Gary Sheffield (47), and Ken Griffey, Jr. (45) had competed in more stadiums .

In August, he scored his 700th career run, becoming the 25th catcher to reach that mark.

Later in the month he said: "This will be my last year in Houston. It’s just time to be closer to home." He has a home in San Diego, which narrowed it down to the Padres (which had expressed interest in him),[139052] Dodgers, and Angels. The Red Sox were also tempting, since Ausmus had a home near Boston, in Cape Codmarker.[139053]

On Sunday, Aug. 24, the Astros played the NY Mets during the Mets International Heritage Week, an annual promotion. It happened to be Jewish Heritage Day, but though Ausmus is Jewish, he did not get to start the game. Ausmus had his only at bat during extra-innings, with the score at 4-4. Ausmus led off the 10th inning with his second homer of the season, and the Astros rallied for a 6-4 win.[139054]

Before his final game as an Astro on September 28th, the team paid tribute to Ausmus with a humorous video. Ausmus went on to hit a 2-run home run in the 3rd inning of the game.

As of July 2009, Ausmus was Houston's all-time leader for catchers with 1,243 games and 1,119 starts.

Los Angeles Dodgers (2009)

On January 26, 2009, Ausmus agreed to a 1-year, $1 million deal (plus incentives) to be a back-up catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ausmus was one of only three active players in 2009, along with Derek Lowe and Livan Hernandez, to have played 12 or more seasons without going on the disabled list.

"There's no question he can be a manager," Joe Torre said. "He's a smart cookie, everybody knows that, and he has an engaging personality." At the end of the season Torre had Ausmus manage the Dodgers for a game.

In 2009, Ausmus batted .295, including .333 with runners in scoring position, and .385 with 2 out and runners in scoring position, while limited to a career-low 107 at bats.

Defense

Known as "a brilliant defensive catcher," and "one of the most respected game-callers and pitching-staff handlers" in the game, Ausmus has exhibited superior range at catcher than the league average each season in his career. He is known for his strong arm, quick release, nimble footwork, framing pitches deftly, and smart handling of pitchers. While the vast majority of his games have been as a catcher, Ausmus has also played a handful of games at first base, second base, third base, and shortstop, all of them without making an error.

Ausmus nabbed 39% of opposing baserunners in , second in the NL only to the Florida Marlins' Charles Johnson, and led the league's catchers with 14 double plays and 63 assists. On August 2, 1997, he was the first catcher to wear the FOX mini-camera, in a Houston-New York Mets game. In , he had 16 double plays, a career best, and led the league in caught-stealing percentage, as he threw out 46 of 93 runners. In , he finished second to Charles Johnson in the NL Gold Glove voting.

In , he led the American League with a .998 fielding percentage. In , he appeared in 150 games, starting 140, which was the most ever by a Detroit catcher. He led the league with 68 assists, and he threw out 30 of 74 baserunners attempting to steal (43.2%), leading the AL in that category. In , he led the NL with a .997 fielding percentage and only one passed ball, had the second best caught-stealing percentage (40%) in the majors, and won the first of two consecutive National League Gold Gloves with the Astros. He led the league again with a .997 fielding percentage and an 8.40 range factor, while being charged with only two passed balls in . In , Ausmus had a .997 fielding percentage, for the third season in a row. He led the league with a .999 fielding percentage in .

Ausmus led the league again with a .998 fielding percentage (the fifth-best of any catcher ever at the time) and a 7.94 range factor, with only one passed ball, and won his third Gold Glove in . That year he caught the second-most games ever by a catcher at the age of 37 -- 138; only Bob Boone, with 147 games, caught more at that age.

He made his franchise-record eighth Opening Day start at catcher for the Astros in 2007, breaking a tie with Alan Ashby. On July 22 of that year, Ausmus passed Gary Carter to move into sole possession of second place in major league career putouts by a catcher (11,792). In addition, he passed Ted Simmons that day to take sole possession of 12th place all-time on the games caught list, with 1,772. In , he had the second-best fielding percentage (.995) and range factor (8.04) of all catchers in the NL, while being charged with only two passed balls.

In , Ausmus was also an "emergency infielder" for the Astros. In April, he played second base in the ninth inning of a game, and later in the season he played first base and third base. In 2005, he even played an inning at shortstop. Through , Ausmus ranked ninth all-time in games caught (1,887) and starts at catcher (1,720). Ausmus also ranked second in major league history with 12,486 putouts as a catcher, trailing only Iván Rodríguez (13,124).

As of April 15, 2009, Ausmus's 1,141 games at catcher this decade ranked second in the majors. As of July 12, 2009, he was third all-time among catchers in fielding percentage.

Postseason career

Prior to 2009, Ausmus had played in the postseason five times, all with the Astros, including the 2005 World Series. In Game 4 of the 2005 National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, Ausmus homered with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game at 6-6 and send it to extra innings; the Astros went on to win in the 18th inning, in what was the longest postseason game in history.

National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame

Ausmus was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2001 he did not play on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, quipping that he "was trying to atone for my poor first half."

"I have had quite a few young Jewish boys who will tell me that I am their favorite player, or they love watching me play or they feel like baseball is a good fit for them because it worked for me, or it worked for Shawn Green or other Jewish players at the Major League level," said Ausmus. "It has been a sense of pride. If you can have a positive impact on a kid, I'm all for it."

References

  1. [1]
  2. Greenberg, Brad A., "There's a new Jew in Dodger blue," Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, 7/1/09, accessed 7/10/09
  3. Jewish Major Leaguers Career Leaders. Accessed July 23, 2008
  4. SportsJustice: Scrapiron speaks. I listen. Ausmus is funny. Accessed July 23, 2008
  5. Baseball Almanac: Darryl Kile Award. Accessed July 23, 2008
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  7. Bristol Press
  8. Brad Ausmus. BaseballLibrary.com. Accessed July 23, 2008
  9. Jewish Sports
  10. Ivy League Sports
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  14. Retrosheet Boxscore: Chicago Cubs 8, San Diego Padres 6
  15. Late and close - Baseball Dictionary and Research Guide
  16. The Official Site of Major League Baseball: Major League Baseball News
  17. ESPN - Ausmus gets one-year, $2M deal to return to Astros
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  25. Dodgers agree to terms with Brad Ausmus on one-year contract
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  27. "Astute Ausmus Frames Future In Baseball," The Hartford Courant, 7/12/09, accessed 7/15/09
  28. Padilla, Doug, "Dodgers catcher Ausmus is manager for a day," LA Daily News, October 5, 2009, accessed October 6, 2009
  29. "Brad Ausmus," Baseball Reference, October 6, 2009
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  33. ASTROS NOTES: Pence sprains wrist. Houston Chronicle.
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  37. Dodgers agree to terms with Brad Ausmus on one-year contract: Three-time Rawlings Gold Glove catcher joins Los Angeles for his 17th Major League season," MLB.com, 1/26/09, accessed 7/15/09
  38. [19]
  39. "Astute Ausmus Frames Future In Baseball"
  40. Jewish Sports Hall of Fame And Museum: Brad Ausmus
  41. Gammons, Peter, "Apolitical blues," ESPN, 9/29/01, accessed 8/20/09
  42. Greenberg, Brad A., "There's a new Jew in Dodger blue," Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, 7/1/09, accessed 7/10/09


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