Playing center field is still relatively new to me. I didn't play center field at all in high school. In fact, I only played the position for one full season in the Minors, but I feel like I'm well suited for the job, and I love playing out there.
Once I made transition, there were some adjustments to make. It's definitely easier to go from the infield to the outfield than from the outfield to the infield. I also moved from a corner outfield spot in the Minors, but playing center field is easier than the corners in some respects. For example, it's definitely easier for me to read the ball off of the bat in center field.
There's also an aggressive, take-charge aspect to playing center field. That's one of the things I really like about the position. You get to make decisions. You also get to catch anything that you think you can catch. I like that part, too.
To me, a good defensive center fielder is a guy who can cover a lot of ground. If you can do that, you will not only make a lot of catches, but you'll also be able to cut the ball off in the gap and keep guys from taking an extra base. You can save runs that way.
Playing center in PNC Park is also a lot of fun. There's a lot of room out there, especially in left-center field.
At the start of the season, when I was named this club's starting center fielder, I felt like I had earned it. Some players are handed starting jobs. It was gratifying to me that I had competed for the job. But it doesn't end there. As a Major Leaguer, you need to compete every day.
There are many guys playing now that I like who play the position. Andruw Jones of the Dodgers is an obvious choice for me. I never get tired of watching him field his position. Jim Edmonds is another guy I've always liked. I've gotten to see him a lot since he plays in our division. My defensive center fielder of all-time, though, is Ken Griffey Jr. Back in his day, there was nobody better. He was just awesome.
Nate McLouth, a 25th-round draft pick coming out of high school in 2000, is enjoying a breakout season as the Pirates' center fielder. The left-handed hitting 26-year-old is batting .289 with 15 home runs, 51 RBIs and an NL-leading 26 doubles. So far this season, he's also played 645 2/3 innings in center field without committing an error.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.