Anthony John "A.J." Pierzynski [peer-ZIN-skee] (born December 30, 1976 in Bridgehampton, New York) is a Polish Catholic Major League Baseball catcher who has played for the Chicago White Sox since 2005. Pierzynski formerly played with the Minnesota Twins (1998–2003) and San Francisco Giants (2004).
Pierzynski is well-known for his often brash and disrespectful demeanor. Incidents with players and the media have earned Pierzynski the reputation of being among the more disliked players in the league. However, his forthrightness and strong desire to win have won the hearts of many White Sox fans.
Pierzynski and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
On October 12, 2005, Pierzynski was involved in one of the most controversial endings in baseball playoff history in Game 2 of the 2005 American League Championship Series versus the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. With the score tied with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Angels pitcher Kelvim Escobar apparently struck out Pierzynski to end the inning. When Josh Paul, the Angels catcher, rolled the ball to the mound and left the infield, Pierzynski ran to first base in case the umpire ruled that the Angels catcher did not field the ball cleanly (Dropped third strike), meaning he would have to either tag Pierzynski or throw to the first baseman to record the out. Umpire Doug Eddings indeed ruled the catcher did not catch the ball, and Pierzynski was awarded first. A pinch-runner, Pablo Ozuna, replaced Pierzynski, who stole second base. Third baseman Joe Crede delivered a base hit three pitches later to give the White Sox the win. The White Sox then swept the next three games to reach the World Series. In the last game Pierzynski and Escobar were involved in another bizarre play with two out, when Escobar tried to tag Pierzynski out with an empty glove. Pierzynski was initially called out, then awarded the base, and Crede again hit the winning run home.
Escobar and Pierzynski met again on April 29, 2006, and Escobar hit Pierzynski with the third pitch he threw at him. Escobar had said before the game that he was intending to hit Pierzynski with a pitch during the game. While Pierzynski didn't score, the White Sox won the game 2-1 giving Escobar the Loss.
Pierzynski and the Chicago Cubs
On May 20, 2006 Pierzynski was in an altercation with Cubs catcher Michael Barrett after a collision at home plate. Pierzynski was the runner on third base when Brian Anderson hit a fly ball to left field. Pierzynski tagged from third in an attempt to score. Barrett was set up at home plate to receive left fielder Matt Murton's throw. As Pierzynski reached home plate, he collided with Barrett. The collision knocked Barrett, who had not yet received Murton's throw, back several feet behind home plate. After the collision, Pierzynski enthusiastically slapped home plate. As Barrett got to his feet, the two came together again. Barrett grabbed Pierzynski with both arms and struck Pierzynski just below the left jaw with his right fist. Both benches cleared. Seconds later, Brian Anderson and Cubs right fielder John Mabry were involved in another confrontation. The four were ejected.
Following the game at a press conference, Barrett, Pierzynski, and Cubs Manager Dusty Baker all commented on the play. There was some disagreement about why Barrett struck Pierzynski. Barrett indicated that Pierzynski stepped toward him at the end of play, and he just reacted badly. Pierzynski indicated that Barrett may have struck him because Barrett did not have the ball yet when the collision occurred. In baseball it is a legal play for a runner to collide with the catcher at home plate when the catcher is attempting to block home plate in order to put a tag on the runner.
High school career
Pierzynski attended Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Florida, where he won All-State honors in baseball. New York Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon was one of Pierzynski's high school teammates.
Professional wrestling appearances
On December 8, 2005, A.J. Pierzynski appeared on TNA iMPACT!, a professional wrestling television program aired by the professional wrestling promotion Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Accompanied by White Sox strength trainer Dale Torborg, Pierzynski presented TNA wrestlers A.J. Styles, Chris Sabin and Sonjay Dutt with memorabilia from the 2005 World Series. The ceremony was, however, interrupted by wrestler Simon Diamond and his "Diamonds in the Rough" faction. Diamond, who was himself once offered a contract by the San Diego Padres, mocked Pierzynski's .256 batting average, telling him that he needed a designated hitter. Diamond then slapped Torborg, leading to a brawl. As a result of the incident, Pierzynski made his professional wrestling managerial debut at TNA Turning Point 2005 on December 11, 2005, accompanying Torborg, Sabin and Dutt to ringside for their match against the Diamonds in the Rough. Pierzynski's team won the bout following interference from New York Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon, who handed Pierzynski a home plate with which to hit Diamond.
Recently, Pierzynski was given a TNA X-Division Championship Replica Belt by TNA, and he announced that the belt would be the (unofficial) award for the White Sox Player of the Game.
- Selected by Minnesota Twins in the 3rd round of the free-agent draft (June 2, 1994 - signed June 9, 1994).
- Traded by Minnesota Twins with cash to San Francisco Giants in exchange for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser (November 14, 2003).
- Released by San Francisco Giants (December 16, 2004).
- Signed by Chicago White Sox (January 6, 2005).