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Hinske has unrivaled Series streak

Hinske has unrivaled Series streak

The Major League career path that began when Eric Hinske won 2002 American League Rookie of the Year honors might have included a number of All-Star appearances and a long list of other individual accolades by now.

That didn't happen.

Instead, his career actually has become much more fulfilling than that, especially the last three years.

"I'm just very fortunate, lucky, blessed," Hinske said.

As in, fortunate to be part of the 2007 World Series champion Red Sox, lucky to be a part of the Rays' own remarkable run to the '08 World Series and blessed to have ridden down the Canyon of Heroes as a member of the '09 World Series champion Yankees.

As he prepares to head to Spring Training with the Braves, his fifth team in four years, Hinske's World Series trifecta with three different clubs can be matched only by Don Baylor's run with the 1986 Red Sox, '87 Twins and '88 A's -- although Baylor only got one World Series ring out of that run, whereas Hinske has two.

At 32, Hinske has ridden a winding yet golden road the last few years that has left him with more jewelry than trophies, and with a perspective he might not have anticipated eight years ago.

"I understand more the older I get that it takes 25 men to win," Hinske said. "Whatever role you might have on a team, you have to accept it and do what you can to help the team win."

While Hinske hasn't been acquired by any of those championship clubs to be a frontline starter, he has become a player who can help in a number of ways -- clutch hits off the bench, versatility on both sets of corners, and mentoring younger players.

"I've loved that role," Hinske said. "I'm not going to lie and say I don't want to play every day. But I've also found out I can be a good bench player, and I pride myself on being a good clubhouse guy."

As he brings that winning resume to the Braves clubhouse this month, the new guy in town with the Midas touch marvels at what he has experienced these past three years.

"It's actually kind of crazy to think about all the guys who played their whole careers and didn't even make the playoffs, and I've had these amazing opportunities," Hinske said.

Yes, life is good for Hinske. His wife Kathryn just gave birth last week to their second daughter, Dylan Alivia. Her older sister Ava was born in August 2007, as Dad and the Sox were on their way to his first dose of October glory.

On the field, Hinske hasn't maintained the high standard he set in that 2002 rookie season with 24 homers and 84 RBIs, which remain his career bests. Although he approached that success in '08 with the Rays, going for 20 homers and 60 RBIs in 133 games, the stats and individual accolades haven't piled up like he might have imagined they would.

"But I'm lucky in so many other ways," Hinske said.

You don't have to tell the Red Sox, Rays and Yankees that.

At 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, Hinske doesn't make much of a trinket. He's no rabbit's foot or horseshoe -- he's still a ballplayer, one who hit 20 homers just two years ago, one who can bring something to the table.

"A lot of people have asked about whether I'm a good luck charm or not, but the bottom line is people want me on their team," Hinske said. "That's great for me. It keeps me getting a job.

Alas, the Hinske touch didn't work out last year for the Pirates, who signed Hinske last offseason but then traded him to the Yankees on June 30. He'd signed with the Pirates thinking he'd get a little more playing time, but he gladly exchanged that for a chance to contribute to another World Series run.

"It showed something about me that the Yankees came calling," Hinske said. "It's an honor to have a team like that, a team with all that history and talent, seeing you as somebody who can help them."

Speaking of which, perhaps his new employers would like to get a little bit of that luck to get them back to the playoffs for the first time since 2005 -- but it wasn't in the contract he signed with the Braves or anything.

"I'm not making any guarantees, that's for sure," Hinske said with a laugh. "But I'm looking forward to it."

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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