If you are a big baseball fan or even just a causal baseball fan you probably watch MLB Network (MLBN) from time to time, if not like me, multiple times per day. If you have watched MLBN in the last month, then you are probably wondering, “Who is that player with the glasses?” I don’t blame you; he is on the Oakland Athletics who, let’s face it, no matter how good they are just don’t get a lot of press. Just look at Josh Donaldson‘s snub from last season’s All-Star Game.
I have to pause here because I am sure you are probably wondering, “Who the heck is Josh Donaldson?” Well, he is the All-Star caliber, finished fourth in the MVP voting in 2013 and very dedicated third baseman for the Oakland Athletics. But this article is not about the Donaldson aka Oakland’s Bringer of Rain.
Again, where am I going with this right? How in the world is this all still related to that guy with the glasses, right? I’m just trying to show you how little press the A’s get each year except talking revolving around their “old stadium” and “small fan base.”
Each year MLB Network holds a fan-decided competition online. A “face” of each Major League Baseball organization is chosen and they then compete going head to head against each other in a bracket style playoff.
This year the Face of the Oakland Athletics as voted on by the fans is second baseman, Eric Sogard. He’s a nice guy who quietly does his job and does it well. Until now, he was only known for making pitcher Matt Garza a little too mad for knowing how to bunt properly and for, as previously mentioned, wearing glasses. Sogard is one of very few, if any, major league players who wear their glasses on the field. Stephen Vogt, Oakland’s catcher, said of Sogard,
“I think he’s what the A’s are all about, he’s under-the-radar and very good, the epitome of the Oakland ‘As.
Over the past year Sogard and his glasses have gotten the attention of the Oakland fans. The A’s, who do have a somewhat smaller fan base than say the New York Yankees, have quite a mighty one. Oakland fans have been called by many the loudest fans in baseball. Now they are trying to make themselves nationally heard in MLBN’s Face of the MLB competition.
Sogard is a fan favorite because everyone loves a guy with glasses and a lot of hustle. His nicknames include The Professor and Harry Potter (I once heard someone yell, “Expelliamus,” in a game where Sogard turned a double play). His other monikers, often used as hashtags to identify him on Twitter, are NerdPower and RallySpecs. At one point his glasses even had their own Twitter account.
Since being voted as “The Face,” as his teammates now call him, Sogard surpassed the Chicago Cubs’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Colorado Rockies’ fan favorite, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, in the first and second rounds of the bracket. Even more surprising was that he beat out Tulowitzki by a whopping 68% of the fan votes. Sogard was of course very humble on the subject of his new celebrity saying,
“Obviously, it started as a joke more than anything, but the fans are starting to grab a hold of it and run with it. Obviously, my baseball credentials don’t match up to Tulowitzki, but it’s great to see the power of the Oakland fans when they come together.”
It appears that the social media savvy and extraordinarily dedicated A’s fan base has gotten behind their “face” and are making the push for a relatively unknown second baseman to be MLBN’s Face Of The MLB. The slogans and memes they have put forth are highly creative, hilarious and re-tweeted thousands upon thousands of times. His teammates are behind him 100%. Starting pitcher Jarrod Parker had his dog, Millie, vote for Sogard and minor league prospect, Jeremy Barfield, made an A-Team themed meme to promote the cause. A’s catcher Stephen Vogt said,
“It’s hilarious, it’s awesome…I saw someone put on Twitter the other day ‘Vogt for Sogard’ – that’s pretty sweet.”
Next up is a “Battle of the Bay” area as Sogard will face off against San Francisco Giants’ catcher, Buster Posey. If Sogard can defeat Posey, he will be in the final four with the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez, the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista and either the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw or the New York Mets’ David Wright.
Sogard played collegiate ball at Arizona State University. He was drafted by the Padres in the second round (81st overall) of the 2007 draft. He was on the All-Star team at the Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A levels. Sogard, along with INF Kevin Kouzmanoff, was traded from the Padres to the Athletics in 2010 where he was assigned to the Triple-A Pacific Coast League Sacramento River Cats. He got his first call up in September of that year. Entering spring training in 2013 with a handful of other infielders competing for spots, Sogard won the job as the opening night starter at second base.
Since then his style of play and love for the game have been endeared him to the fans in Oakland. He batted .266 for the A’s last season and committed only nine errors in 113 games at second base and in 15 games at shortstop. Now it is not unusual to see fans wearing their RallySpecs around the O.Co Coliseum in Oakland or all around the web. Just try googling the hashtag to see.