By: Nick Roark
Jonathan Mota has never walked into the Tennessee Smokies clubhouse with a tool belt around his waist and a hard hat on his head. But chances are the Smokies do-it-all player can fix any problem skipper Buddy Bailey might cross if filling out a lineup.
Arismendy Alcantara needs a day off? Jonathan Mota can fill in.
What if Bailey needs someone to play a corner outfield spot? Mota can do that too.
And say Tennessee suffers an injury to a key player? Mota has you covered.
The only spots the 26-year-old utility man has not filled over his career are catcher and center field. Yes, he’s even pitched.
Mota is thrilled to have played in 96 games this season, gladly filling in at any spot after missing most of 2012 when he required Tommy John surgery in May. But since the native of Venezuela is not an everyday starter at any position, staying ready at a moment’s notice provides its challenges.
“I come to the field every day thinking that I’m going to play, knowing the situation or the guys we have,” Mota said after delivering his first four-RBI performance of the season Monday night. “I just work a little bit at each position, trying to be ready for any opportunity.”
The Smokies most versatile player proved his worth Monday night against Montgomery as he played in both games of a doubleheader between the two squads. All Mota did was go 1-for-2 with a run scored and a walk in the first contest while upping his performance in game two by going 2-for-3 with a home run, double, four RBIs and a run scored.
“He’s on a upswing big time,” Bailey said of Mota. “He gives you so much freedom to fill in for guys and then his bat’s been so good it’s not like you’re dropping off anything offensively.”
The reason behind Mota’s success at the plate has lied in his daily routine of taking 20 swings every day with a short bat, working both his bottom and top hand ten times individually to maintain consistency in his swing.
“From there,” Mota said, “I go five-and-five and then sometimes I challenge myself and I put a tee in the middle of the cage with a ball and then I try to hit the ball. That way I can stay through the ball – through the middle – and then the bat will have the same plain, it will be in the same spot,”
Bailey also noted Mota’s high fielding percentage, boasting a .996 fielding percentage and committing just two errors while playing six different positions.
“He doesn’t do [anything] like some other guys can do it at one position, but when you have so many things that you can do in playing so many defensive positions adequately, some of that stuff – and the speed, this, that and the other – that the other guys have for one position, makes you almost as valuable to a club because you can give diversity everywhere,” Bailey said.
Although Mota is not classified as a top prospect for the Chicago Cubs, his day in the big leagues could come sooner than expected. And while he admitted staying patient is “the hardest part” of his role, it is exactly what he will do when it comes to a call from Chicago.
But until then, Jonathan Mota will strap on his tool belt and hard hat to help his team win a championship.
To stay current with all the latest news, follow Smokies on Radio on Twitter and like the Smokies on Radio Facebook page. Nick Roark is the Senior Beat Writer for the Smokies Radio Network. You can follow him on Twitter here: NickRoark4.