Scott Hatteberg played 11 of his 14 seasons in Major League Baseball with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics. While a solid player during his career, most people remember Hatteberg for his key role in the Athletics’ “Moneyball” approach to baseball.
Hatteberg never made an All-Star team or played in a championship team. But he’s more famous than many past All-Stars because actor Chris Pratt played him in a movie that also starred Brad Pitt, including a funny scene that’s one of the best in the movie.
Hatteberg offers a testament to the value of flexibility and the ability to pivot when your career path takes an unexpected turn. He’s also one of the most famous examples of how Athletics General Manager Billy Beane put data analytics into action.
Scott Hatteberg’s Early Career
Hatteberg was born on Dec. 14, 1969 in Salem, Oregon. He grew up playing Little League in Salem and Pony League and American Legion baseball in Yakima, Washington. He also was MVP of the Eisenhower High School baseball team and team captain in his senior year.
After graduation, Hatteberg attended Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. He played catcher for the Cougars baseball team. The team won championships in1989-1991 during Hatteberg’s time there. He also played as a member of the U.S. National Baseball Team at the 1990 Goodwill Games.
In 1991, the Boston Red Sox chose Hatteberg with their third pick of the draft.
Career Before the Athletics
Hatteberg spent time in the minors before making it up to the big club in 1995. He made his debut Sept. 8 in a game against the New York Yankees, getting one hit in two at-bats. He played just two games with the Red Sox 1995, and 10 games with the club in 1996.
His career took off in 1997. Hatteberg had 395 plate appearances for the Red Sox in 14 games, hitting .277 with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs. He saw regular duty for most of the next four seasons in Boston. His most memorable moment came in a game against the Texas Rangers on Aug, 6, 2001, when he hit into a triple play and then, in his next at-bat, hit a grand slam. No one had ever done that before in the majors.
Two other things happened in 2001 that changed his life. The first is that Hatteberg injured a nerve in his elbow, making it difficult for him to throw, a potentially career-ending injury for a catcher. The other is that on Dec. 19, the Red Sox traded him to the Colorado Rockies for Pokey Reese. On Dec. 21, the Rockies granted him free agency.
Career With the Athletics
As detailed in the book “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis, as well as in the film, the Athletics wanted Hatteberg not for his skills behind the plate – they assumed his days as a catcher were over – but because of his on-base percentage. Hatteberg had a .332 on-base percentage in 2001, right at the league average for that year, but had reached .367 in 2000 and .410 in 1999 (the MLB averages for those years were both .345).
They also had to teach him to play first base, which Lewis spends a chapter on in his book. Hatteberg played 91 games at first that year, committing give errors. He appeared in 42 more games as the designated hitter.
The film depicts Hatteberg’s most famous moment of the 2002 season in dramatic fashion. On Sept. 4, 2002, Hatteberg hit a walk off home run off Jason Grimsley that gave the A’s a victory over the Kansas City Royals and their 20th consecutive win of the season. That set a record for the American League, although the Cleveland Indians broke it in 2017 by winning 22 in a row.
The approach the A’s pioneered continues to spark debate today, but there’s no doubt that Hatteberg delivered for Oakland. In 2002, he had a .374 on-base percentage, far over the league average of .331. He also hit 15 home runs and drove in 61 runs for a team that reached the playoffs. The team repeated a trip to the postseason in 2003.
Hatteberg played for the A’s until 2005, when he went to the Cincinnati Reds, also playing first base. He left baseball after the 2008 season. Since retirement, Hatteberg has worked as Special Assistant to Baseball Operations for the Athletics.