GARY | He’s played many roles for the RailCats this season, but the versatile Danny Pulfer continued to display his many talents when he acted in a small production in Chicago on Tuesday night.
It was a love story with a tinge of “Parting is such sweet sorrow,” set at the iconic Buckingham Fountain.
Pulfer, a utility infielder for the RailCats, acted like a tourist and photographed Steve Liddle’s proposal to his girlfriend, who was visiting from out of town and did not know Pulfer or co-commemorator Chase Tucker, another RailCat.
“It’s always bad, when a guy’s been here this long and become your friend, to see him part,” Pulfer said. “Luckily he parted with something to take his mind off it. He had the best day of his life because he proposed to his girlfriend and she said yes.”
The moment represented a dual crossroads for Liddle, a first baseman, who earlier in the day had been traded away from the RailCats to Southern Illinois of the Frontier League for future considerations.
The trade freed a roster spot for pitcher Will Krout to come off of the disabled list and also meant Pulfer would have one less fellow infielder.
For a utility player who owns five fielding gloves, including a catcher’s mitt and a recently arrived first baseman’s glove of his own, it means more opportunities.
“I actually debated on whether to get an outfielder’s glove because (manager Greg Tagert) has been asking me: ‘Can you play outfield?’” Pulfer said.
On Wednesday Pulfer started at his favorite spot, second base, and batted ninth. His spot in the order has fluctuated according to which full-time starter he replaces on a given night. He’s played all four spots around the horn of the infield this season and is listed as the No. 3 catcher on the depth chart.
With his versatility in the infield — a trait he’s had since playing on a travel team with an every-inning rotation between the second baseman, third baseman and shortstop — and his clutch at-bats, it’s been hard to keep him out of the lineup.
“He’s athletic, and he is a tough out,” Tagert said. “He gives you everything he’s got every at-bat.”
On Tuesday as a pinch-hitter he had an RBI single and a sacrifice bunt that advanced Drew Martinez, who later scored the walk-off run on a wild pitch.
His first at-bat Wednesday resulted in a two-out RBI single that gave the RailCats a 1-0 lead in the second inning of their game against Kansas City at U.S. Steel Yard.
On May 19 he set a franchise record and tied an American Association record with five walks against Lincoln. The RailCats lead the AA in walks.
The only low point this season was a disabled list stint with concussion-like symptoms after a crash into the stands chasing a foul ball from third base.
As a sophomore in high school Pulfer played for a team called the Amateur Baseball Development Bulldogs. The team traveled all over the country, and teammates came from other states to join them, often only for one tournament or one weekend. Team rules mandated players move defensive positions every inning.
“Every guy could play every spot, and that, they said, would help us with the recruiting process,” Pulfer said. “It was like, ‘You need a shortstop? Take me. You need a second baseman? Take me.’”
Pulfer, a 23-year-old native of California, played his final three seasons at Oregon University, which did not field a team for 28 years before bringing the sport back to campus with an initial recruiting class that included Pulfer.
Pulfer mainly played second for the Ducks and then with the Diamondbacks organization before finding himself among the unemployed this spring.
A fortuitous phone call from Tagert lured him to the south shore of Lake Michigan for this season.
“We signed him knowing that the competition for the infield was wide open going into camp,” Tagert said. “As camp wore on, we knew we had a good player in Danny Pulfer. His value to us is that he can do a lot of things. Right now it’s really working out.”