On July 18, the MLB Players Alumni Association announced the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Nick Punto had won the Dodgers’ Heart and Hustle Award. Although the final announcement of the overall winner will not be released until November, Punto has deservedly been deemed the Dodgers player with the most effort and passion for the game.
If you look up utility player in the baseball dictionary, you will find a picture of Punto. The 13-year MLB veteran has seen playing time in the majors at each of the following positions: first base, second base, shortstop, third base, left field, center field and right field. Punto has literally played every defensive position other than the battery spots, which makes him a fantastic tool for any manager to work with.
At the beginning of the season, the Dodgers’ star shortstop Hanley Ramirez was injured and unable to play. As a result, manager Don Mattingly penciled Punto’s name into the lineup frequently. As Ramirez missed pretty much all of May, Punto started in 21 of the Dodgers’ games that month, and managed a .267 batting average with 8 RBI during that span. Although he is not an equal replacement for Ramirez, Punto gets the job done day in and day out. It can be argued that having to come off the bench and be productive is more difficult than doing so with regular playing time.
With as much versatility and spirit as Punto brings to the Dodgers, it is no surprise that he received the Heart and Hustle Award. Punto has restated his case in the past few games. On Monday, Punto’s bottom of the seventh, solo home run gave the Dodgers a nice insurance run en route to a 4-2 win over the New York Mets. Punto kept things rolling on Tuesday as he plated the first two runs of the game in the fifth, giving the Dodgers a 2-1 lead that would not be relinquished.
Eric Stephen of truebluela.com reported back in May that Mattingly said, “When you’re writing the lineup, it’s hard to say don’t play Punto tonight.” With the amount of hustle and heart Punto provides on a daily basis, the Dodgers organization is lucky to have him, and will need Punto to be a vital role playing piece in order for the team to make a deep run in the playoffs.