It took recent Tacoma Rainiers acquisition Danny Muno only a few hours Wednesday to collect four hits. Two years ago, as a New York Mets rookie, it took him three months to collect four hits in the major leagues.
Despite spending almost all of his time in New York on the bench, Muno would be happy to exchange his four-hit day for his four-hit career. But whatever the future holds, if Muno sustains the do-anything, play-anywhere attitude he’s brought to Tacoma, he’ll have a job.
Not any old kind of a job, mind you. An everyday job.
“I’m able to bounce him around,” manager Pat Listach said of Muno after the Rainiers’ 5-3 victory over Fresno at Cheney Stadium. “He’s versatile. He mostly played third base last season, but he can also play shortstop and second, which is a big plus. And we can run him out there in the outfield.”
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Muno doesn’t care where he plays on the field. Where he plays on the map is what matters.
Through early May, Muno belonged to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League. It was baseball, and he drew a paycheck, but the difference between an independent league and Triple-A is as pronounced as the difference between Triple-A and the majors.
Muno reported to Tacoma with his spirit revived. At 28, he’s too old to be considered a prospect, yet too young to give up on the possibility of returning to The Show.
“I’m just so excited to be back in affiliated ball,” he said. “I started the year in independent ball and grinded over there. I’m happy to be here.”
Muno was hitting .254 for the Blue Crabs, with a homer and four RBIs in 18 games, when the Mariners purchased his contract and assigned him to Tacoma. Something about the change of scenery apparently awakened his bat.
Muno’s four singles Tuesday raised his batting average to .414. He’s driven in six runs, showing more pop than expected.
“I’m trying to take quality at-bats each time up there,” he said. “Whether it’s getting on base, or scoring runs, or playing defense, anything I can do get in the lineup and help the team win is my mentality. Anywhere they want to put me out there, I’m good with it.”
Managers love that kind of talk. They love versatility even more.
“He takes a lot of pitches and works the count,” Listach said of the switch-hitting Muno. “He doesn’t have a lot of power but he’s got two homers here already and one was to the opposite field.
“He’s been a pleasant surprise for us since coming here from independent ball.”
A Southern California native who played at four years at Fresno State, Muno has gotten as much out of baseball as he’s given to it.
He had a key role on the Bulldogs team that finished the 2008 season with a 33-27 record.
But they scored an NCAA Tournament bid as as the No. 4 seed in their region, and went on to become College World Series champions after surviving six consecutive elimination games.
Muno climbed through the Mets minor-league system, earning glowing reports from the likes of Wally Backman, his Las Vegas 51s manager.
An old-school scrapper, Backman surely saw similarities in Muno’s approach to baseball and that of his own. Which made it odd on the April, 2015 day when Backman scolded Muno for failing to exert maximum hustle toward first base on a routine fly out.
Muno thought, seriously? He’s reading me the riot act because I maintain an all-out sprint?
Backman wasn’t serious, merely having fun with the best aspect of managing in Triple-A: informing one of his players he’s been promoted to the big leagues.
Muno’s parents arrived in time for them to watch their son’s memorable debut. He singled in his first-bat, then stole second base.
But playing time opportunity on an eventual pennant-winning team was limited, and Muno went unused for days at a time.
He regrets nothing and blames nobody.
“I had a good experience over there,” he said. “We ultimately parted ways. But it was an awesome experience – my whole family was there to see me get a hit in my first at-bat.
“Your ultimate dream as a little kid is to play in the big leagues.”
When you’re 28, your ultimate dream is to get back there. And though a second big-league stint might rate as a long shot, it never hurts to go 4-for-4.