SCOTTSDALE – Chris Herrmann of the Diamondbacks is a catcher by heart.
But don’t box him in just because of his skills behind the plate. Since Herrmann’s Little League days he has bounced around the diamond, playing first, second, third and all the outfield positions. He never dabbled at shortstop, but he was almost pressed into duty as an emergency pitcher a few times.
“I’ve never been afraid to branch out and try the different positions,” he said. “All my coaches growing up knew that.”
He is asked quite a bit about his versatility and his role as a utility player, which the Diamondbacks have come to value. He has a left-handed bat, too, hitting .284 with six home runs and 28 RBI in 56 games last season.
But he didn’t think he’d be this type of player.
“The higher I moved up, I thought I was just going to settle in and just work on one position — that being catcher,” he said. “When I was with the (Minnesota) Twins, they really liked that I was versatile and can play different positions and thankfully the Diamondbacks feel the same way. I feel like that gives me an opportunity to make this team and give me playing time.”
It leaves management options, but as of now his role isn’t set in stone. Herrmann said he has yet to take a fly ball this spring training, mostly playing catcher.
“If I’m catching that day I’m going to be focused on catching,” he said. “But if I’m not catching that day, I’ll take fly balls in the outfield or take ground balls at first. So I guess you can say it’s a little extra work than the guy who plays shortstop or second base full-time.”
This is Herrmann at work. Then there’s Herrmann at play.
“Ever since I was in diapers, my parents could tell you that I was just glued to playing video games, trying to beat ‘Super Mario World’ and all that stuff,” he said.
The diapers are gone, but there is evidence in the clubhouse that not much else has changed, including his gray Nintendo T-shirt and a Nintendo 3DS handheld.
David Peralta, his locker stall neighbor at Salt River Fields, frequently asks Herrmann for gaming tips.
“I try to play ‘Call of Duty’ online with him, but he’s always big-leaguing me,” Peralta said. “I guess I’m not good enough for him yet, but I know I’m going to be like him some day. I try to play at least 30 minutes before I go to bed.”
The “Call of Duty” series is Herrmann’s favorite — he’s played them since they were released in 2003.
But he’s not just a casual gamer — he built his own PC gaming system in November. He used to wander into his grandfather’s computer shop and watch how he’d assemble them.
Herrmann claims that anyone can do it.
“Maybe not to the extent of mine, though,” he said. “I went overboard, maybe overkill. It’s just my passion.”
The system opens up another line of communication between player and fan, too. Under the moniker “HerrmTheWorm,” a nickname he received from a high school teammate, he live-streams his gaming missions via Twitch.
“Sometimes we talk, not even about video games, just stuff about baseball,” he said. “It’s a pretty cool little deal.”
Baseball is Herrmann’s vocation, gaming his avocation.
“There is a lot more to baseball players than just swinging a bat and throwing a baseball,” he said. “We all have hobbies that we love to do and that’s just one of mine.”