CHICAGO -- Fans who meet A.J. Pierzynski certainly discuss his 19-year Major League Baseball career, and maybe even bring up his key moments from the 2005 White Sox World Series championship.
They also talk about Pierzynski’s other nationally known athletic endeavor in the pro wrestling world.
“You would be amazed how many people are like, ‘I loved you when you were wrestling. We remember you wrestling,’” said Pierzynski during a phone interview from his Florida home. “More people come up to me and say that than they do about anything else: ‘Oh, I loved watching you wrestle.’
“Then they ask if I’m going to do it again. I tell them I don’t think so, but you never know what can happen.”
Pierzynski hit .280, launched 188 home runs and caught 1,936 games as one of the game’s more durable catchers. He also unofficially played the heel, the term for villain in the wrestling world, during his time with seven teams -- including eight seasons with the White Sox.
Yet, Pierzynski was a face, or the ultimate good guy, during his wrestling debut. He took part in TNA’s Turning Point 2005: BaseBrawl, managing the team of Dale Torborg, Sonjay Dutt and Chris Sabin against the Diamonds in the Rough. Torborg, who previously had wrestled as The Demon for the now defunct World Championship Wrestling, served as the White Sox Minor League conditioning coordinator and spent time with the Major League team in '05, becoming friends with Pierzynski.
“We would talk about wrestling all the time,” said Pierzynski of his bond with Torborg, who currently is the advisor to performance in the White Sox Minor League system. “After the season, he called me and said ‘Hey, I have friends over at TNA. Maybe we could do something, some sort of a collaboration. You get to do some ring stuff.’
“He knew I was a wrestling fan. When Dale brought it up, we talked about it and it ended up being really fun and really well done.”
This event took place at Universal Studios, located approximately 10 minutes from where Pierzynski and his family lived at the time. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan -- the greatest manager in the history of wrestling and not to mention one of the more charismatic, engaging television personalities -- served as the team’s honorary manager to assist Pierzynski.
Carrying a baseball bat and wearing his White Sox jersey to the ring in front of a large crowd also featuring numerous White Sox jerseys, Pierzynski eventually figured prominently in the match’s outcome. He prevented Simon Diamond and his colleagues from running back to the dressing room by threatening to use his bat in a somewhat unflattering manner, and after Diamond apparently knocked out Torborg by hitting him with a catcher's shin guard, it was Pierzynski who grabbed the referee's leg and yanked him out of the ring before he could complete his three-count.
Shortly thereafter, Pierzynski jumped into the ring with a base that would be a little too sturdy to be found on a baseball field, got Diamond's attention and cracked him over the head. The base was handed to Pierzynski by none other than Johnny Damon, who was sitting in the front row along with Pierzynski’s teammates Chris Widger, Brian Anderson and Josh Fields, and Jeff Torborg, the former White Sox manager and Dale’s father.
Pierzynski’s home plate smash led to a victory, with Dutt, Sabin and Torborg all covering Diamond. Pierzynski signed the base laying on top of an apparently out cold Diamond in the ring, finally able to exhale over a well done new venture.
“Oh, it was almost like when we would win a big game or something. I was exhausted,” Pierzynski said. “I had so much adrenaline going and when the finish happened and I was just like, ‘Oh, yeah, we did it kind of as planned.’ One little hiccup nobody would notice. Perfect. It was over, the crowd was going crazy.
“I tell people all the time when they ask me about it, that was the most nervous I’ve ever been. I played in a World Series. I played in an All-Star Game, the whole deal. But the most nervous I’ve ever been was doing that whole thing.”
Torborg and Pierzynski returned to the ring the following offseason as heels, with David Eckstein on the good guy side. The Torborg/Pierzynski team lost, although sticking to heel form, Pierzynski said they were cheated. It’s a wrestling-related role Pierzynski wouldn’t be against filling again.
“If they called, I would have to think about it,” said Pierzynski of a wrestling return. “I enjoy talking a little trash every once in a while, so I would have to be a bad guy I would think. That would be the only way it would work. That was easier for me since I played a heel my whole life.”