SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Serving as an amateur groundskeeper nicely prepared Mike Fontenot for his Major League career.Growing up in Slidell, La., Fontenot and his brother, Chris, tried to create a realistic setting when they played in the backyard by mowing the lawn in the pattern of a baseball diamond. "We'd start off by cutting the line. Then eventually we'd cut out the whole infield," Fontenot recalled Saturday. Their parents welcomed this creative approach to doing chores. "They'd get half the yard cut," Fontenot said, adding that he and his brother would complete the job once they finished playing. Years later, Fontenot still manages to leave an imprint on ballgames.
2010 Spring Training - San Francisco Giants
News & Features
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Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
Fontenot never has been an everyday player in nearly four full Major League seasons. But the Giants knew what they were doing when they acquired the 5-foot-8 infielder from the Chicago Cubs last Aug. 11 for Minor League infielder Evan Crawford. Fontenot appeared in 28 games down the stretch for San Francisco and started only 15 of them. The record showed that he helped the Giants significantly as they surged to the National League West championship and beyond:Aug. 14: Fontenot singled and scored the tying run in the eighth inning in a 3-2 triumph over San Diego. Aug. 20: Fontenot singled twice and scored both times in a 6-3 victory at St. Louis. Aug. 25: Fontenot collected two hits and scored twice off the bench to hasten the Giants' comeback from a 10-1 deficit in their epic 12-11 loss to Cincinnati. Sept. 1: Fontenot generated all of San Francisco's offense in a 2-1 win over Colorado ace Ubaldo Jimenez with an RBI single and an eighth-inning walk. Pinch-runner Darren Ford ran for Fontenot and made his now-fabled dash around the bases. Sept. 15: Fontenot's RBI single off Chad Billingsley broke a scoreless tie in the seventh inning. The Giants proceeded to beat the Dodgers, 2-1. Sept. 28: Fontenot singled to drive in a third-inning run before walking and scoring in the seventh as the Giants outlasted Arizona, 4-2. Fontenot maintained this trait in the postseason. He tripled and scored in the second inning of Game 3 in the Division Series at Atlanta, a night when every run counted as the Giants prevailed, 3-2. The Giants hit a National League-worst .248 last season with runners in scoring position. By contrast, Fontenot batted .340 (18-for-53) in those situations, 11th best in the league. Maybe Fontenot should be included with Buster Posey, Mark DeRosa, Pat Burrell and Cody Ross when the Giants cite position players who'll benefit them by being around all season. Fontenot, a .270 lifetime hitter, said that he embraces clutch situations. "It's a great time to come up and hit," he said. "They're fun at-bats. You don't always get the job done because it's baseball and half of it's failure, but I enjoy opportunities when you have a chance to win a game or drive in a run." Fontenot watches each pitch as carefully as possible in these instances.
"You know they're not just going to lay one in there," he said.The 30-year-old combines versatility with his selectivity. Fontenot's most adept at second base, but he also has played 69 games at third base. Fontenot also has played 34 innings this spring at shortstop, third-most on the team, as manager Bruce Bochy tries to determine whether he could handle that spot as a backup.
"I like the way he's moving around at shortstop," Bochy said.Given the land mines that seem to be buried around the infield -- second baseman Freddy Sanchez's injury history, shortstop Miguel Tejada's age (36), third baseman Pablo Sandoval's vulnerability to slumps (at least last year) -- Fontenot provides essential depth, along with fellow utility man DeRosa. Thus, Fontenot's ready for anything as he approaches the season. "You have to be able to do all the little things -- get a guy over, get a bunt down, be sure you're at the right place covering balls, throwing to the right bases," he said. "I feel like that really is winning baseball. If you can get a whole team doing things that way, which I feel like we do, it's huge."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.