STOCKTON -- While the Stockton Ports won't be headed to the postseason when the 2016 season comes to a close on Labor Day, the season's final weekend was not without drama. The highlight of the 2016 campaign took place on Saturday night as Melvin Mercedes made history by playing all nine positions in a single game for the Ports during an 8-3 win over the Bakersfield Blaze.
Mercedes, who had played every position this season for the Ports except for first base and catcher, started the game at third base and played one inning at every position, with it ending with him on the mound. He pitched a scoreless ninth inning with two strikeouts to close out the win. In order he played 3B, SS, 2B, 1B, C, LF, CF, RF before finishing on the mound. All but one Ports position player saw action on a thin roster that featured Iolana Akau playing first base for the first time since Little League.
"I don't think you could have scripted it any better," said Ports skipper Rick Magnante after the game. "I mean, it was absolutely perfect. Everything moved smoothly. Every position he played, he more than aptly did the job. He got a big hit early in the game to ignite a rally, as well."
On the night, Mercedes reached base twice, including a lead-off double in the first inning before coming in to score. He also started a double play while playing third. During his pitching performance, he did not give up a hit while walking one and striking out two as he hit 90 MPH in a scoreless inning of work that had the fans behind him on every pitch.
The idea for Mercedes, a 2012 Oakland A's draft pick, to play all nine positions was hatched in the middle of July -- when he pitched in a home game in Stockton. Magnante and I worked up an initial "game plan" for how the playing time would be spread out throughout the game and submitted the idea to A's farm director Keith Lieppman. The plan went through several revisions as the A's made roster moves that impacted who was on the Ports' roster. The planning didn't stop until the night before the game as one final change had to be made to the plans with Henderson Alvarez coming to Stockton for a rehab start.
"The word was going around," said Mercedes about the possibility of him playing all nine positions in one game.
"[Magnante] told me when we got back from our last road trip that we were going to do it on Saturday. I never thought about doing something like that. Not at all. I'm not going to lie that was pretty cool. I thought catcher was the hardest as it was tough to catch [Grant Holmes] with all his movement."
When asked if he was hoping to test out his arm behind the plate, he said, "I wanted him to try and steal second so I could see what's up."
"I just can't say enough about it," continued Magnante. "It was one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had in professional baseball. To be apart of it with a kid of his character and quality to make it a special night for him as well as the fans in Stockton and to be apart of it in my baseball career, I don't think there is anything I can compare with it right now."