By: Sam Jellinek
ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Being asked to play essentially every position on the
diamond is a big ask. It entails having to own multiple gloves, being adept and
athletic enough to play all of this positions, and then a mindset that allows
you to seamlessly move between them all. Jim Haley has all of these.
Not naturally a utility guy, Haley was a three-year starting
shortstop for the Penn State Nittany Lions out of the Big 10, Haley was quickly
thrown into the world of positionless baseball when he was drafted by the Tampa
Bay Rays in the 19th round of the 2016 MLB Draft. Since debuting in
2016 as a 3B, Haley has appeared at all four infield positions plus all three
outfield spots. This season with the IronPigs, Haley has played at every spot
on the infield.
This utility role was one born of necessity for Haley and a
loaded IronPigs position player core. After starting the year with most starts
at first base, Haley has been playing more middle infield of late. For Haley
though, any chance to lace up the cleats and take the diamond is good enough
“I’m just happy to be in there, be it the infield or
otherwise, I’m just happy to help the team however I can. Obviously we have a
pretty stacked lineup right now and a lot of guys on the bench and a very good
baseball team. I’m just looking to help the team however I can, be it at first
or second or even off the bench, it doesn’t matter to me and I’m just happy to
be a part of it,” says Haley.
While Haley has grown in to the utility role, it was one he
was exposed to immediately with the Rays who helped pioneer a positionless
style of baseball. That helped Haley adapt extremely quickly and it is paying
dividends for him now that he’s in the Phillies organization.
“Everybody wants to be in there every night. Everyone wants
to play six days a week, but that’s just not the way the game is anymore. We’ve
got such a good team, that honestly, even being on the bench it’s what I can
the best seat in the house to watch games.”
While Haley may be talking literally when he calls it the
best seat in the house, he also views the days he’s not playing as a chance to
learn and grow from the very talented position players he finds himself
“When I’m not playing, I have the mindset to pick something
up from these guys. Especially any rehab guys we get down here. Watch how they
go about their business, the way they play the game, always trying to figure
A very astute observer, Haley also makes sure the work and
preparation he puts in pregame is above and beyond anyone’s expectations.
Arrive five hours prior to first pitch at Coca-Cola Park and you’re likely to
see Haley already out on the diamond working with IronPigs bench coach Pat Listach
on the nuances of playing any of the four infield positions.
“I’m eight years in to my career and you think you know a
lot, and you really don’t. I try to learn something new every day and with Pat,
that’s exactly how it’s been. He has definitely flipped my mindset, and getting
to work with him every day it’s given me a mindset of wanting to come out and
do early work every day just to learn from him.”
Even though coming to the park every day constitutes works
for Haley, he is living something of a childhood dream, playing in his own
backyard. Haley grew up just outside of Philadelphia, in Upper Darby, and attended
Bonner-Prendergast High School. Haley was named the Philadelphia Catholic
League MVP after the 2013 season before moving on to play collegiately at Penn
After years in the Rays organization, he signed a Minor
League free agent deal with the Phillies this offseason and has gotten to be
play in front of friends and family often this season, which is something
special considering Haley was one of 10 kids growing up, having eight brothers
and one sister.
“People still ask me how my parents did it, raising all of
us, and honestly I still don’t know. I don’t know where I’d be without my
parents, they are both incredible people taking care of us. We lived at the
baseball field growing up. My mom would pack us all up in this green van and
there was a game from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. and that went all the way through
With so many siblings, it’s no wonder Haley took to a
utility role so quickly, having to adapt to whatever role was needed in a
family that could field a full lineup one through nine with a designated
hitter. It’s all served Haley for the best though, now thriving in the role he
finds himself in with the IronPigs.