Obscure Spotlight: John Vander Wal

john_vanderwalFew light-hitting, low-average players lasted long during the height of the steroid era. One obscure exception to this bit of seemingly common knowledge, however, is the fourteen year career of a Mr. John Vander Wal. He played for eight teams in that span, including an impressive seven out of the sixteen teams in the National League.

Vander Wal made his debut with the team that drafted him—the Expos, on September 6, 1991. Vander Wal would spend two more full seasons in Montreal before moving onto the team with which he would spend the most time, the Rockies.  In 641 total plate appearances in Colorado, many of which came from his uncanny ability to pinch-hit, he batted .262 with an OPS of .794. The single season pinch hit appearance record belongs to Vander Wal, with 28.

John Vander Wal hit 97 home runs in his career, highlighted by a 24 homer, 94 RBI campaign in 2000 with the Pirates. That year, along with 2001, were the only seasons in which Vander Wal racked up more than 300 plate appearances. His only time spent in the American League came in 2002 with the Yankees, when he appeared in 84 games for the Bombers.

He played his last game for the Reds in 2004. That year, in 51 plate appearances, he recorded only 6 hits, and decided to hang it up. Vander Wal is currently a scout for the Padres, for whom he played two seasons.


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