'Supermannahan' in full effect in Cincy
A fan favorite in Cleveland, third baseman has thrived in utility role for Reds
Just call him "Supermannahan."
That's what the Cleveland Indians faithful did when John Joseph Hannahan IV was a member of their team.
And now that Hannahan has crossed Ohio to join the Reds, perhaps the Cincinnati fans ought to take up the moniker.
Hannahan has gracefully adjusted from his starting role with the Tribe to a utility position in Cincinnati, bringing with him a legend all his own.
Back in 2011, the MLB Fan Cave got things rolling by producing a video entitled "Jack Hannahan: Celtic Superhero of the Cuyahoga," a homage to Hannahan's Irish heritage. The short skit features Hannahan in an Indians jersey and kilt surrounded by Irish dancers. (Also, Hannahan's walk-up song is "Kiss Me I'm Irish" by Gaelic Storm).
Add all that up and you get a nickname for the record books.
"['Supermannahan'] can stay in Cleveland if it wants to. If it wants to come here too, that's OK as well," Hannahan laughed.
Whether or not the nickname makes it from the shores of Lake Erie to the banks of the Ohio River, the man behind it is certainly deserving of it.
Hannahan's athletic prowess -- not just limited to baseball -- has its origins early in his life.
"My mom will pull up pictures when I was 1 or 1 1/2 [years old], running around with a bat and hitting a ball off of a tee," Hannahan said.
It started with John Joseph Hannahan III.
"My dad is a huge baseball fan," Hannahan said. "He did get cut in high school from the baseball team. He always blamed it on the lights in the gym. He couldn't be outside in Minnesota [because of the heat] for tryouts; he said he couldn't see in the gym because it was too dark."
John Hannahan didn't just raise one baseball player.
"I've got an older brother, Buzz, who is four years older than me who was a really good baseball player. He played for nine years in the Phillies organization in the Minor Leagues and made it to Triple-A," Hannahan said. "When I was little, I would just go out with him and his buddies playing baseball.
"I think playing at a higher level when I was little made me fine-tune my skills a little bit, and I was lucky enough to go to the [high school] state championships at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, and went on to play at the University of Minnesota. I was drafted in the third round by the Detroit Tigers in 2001. And I've been playing ever since."
It took five years for Hannahan to make it to The Show with Detroit. After his big league debut in 2006, his path crisscrosses the country.
In 2007, Hannahan was traded to the Oakland Athletics; by 2009, he was a Seattle Mariner. In mid-2010, Hannahan was shipped to Boston, where he played at Triple-A Pawtucket. When he reached free agency, he signed with Cleveland as a non-roster invitee and made the club out of Spring Training after an injury to starting third baseman Jason Donald.
But no matter where he went, Hannahan carried with him a certain respect among teammates, media types and fans alike.
From his special bond with 17-year-old cancer patient Luke Strotman, to the time his Indians teammates raised $35,000 to get Hannahan on a private jet so he could be at the birth of his premature son, Hannahan has always been well-liked.
Phrases such as "underdog," "good guy" and "feel-good story" have all been used in conjunction with Hannahan's name, as well as on-field attributes like "scrappy," "clutch," and "versatile."
That versatility allowed Hannahan to play both football and baseball in high school.
"I was going to get a scholarship to play football at the University of Minnesota," he said. "My dad and I went to one of their practices. I think it kind of hit us at the same time [that I was going to choose baseball].
"We looked at each other when the team ran out … to see how big those guys are, to see how fast those guys are. And I made a decision to play baseball right after that," Hannahan said with a laugh.
And his choice was the right one.
The 33-year-old takes great pride in his "scrappy factor," as some call it.
"I'm an old-school kind of guy who really likes to put the uniform on, respect the game, and hustle. Like my dad always used to say, if my uniform wasn't dirty, then I didn't have a good game," Hannahan noted.
Anyone who doubts Hannahan's work ethic must look only to the work the St. Paul native puts in.
Hannahan has had to make a big adjustment this season, going from everyday third baseman to utility man coming off the bench to serve in a multitude of capacities.
"For me, it's kind of a different mindset [as opposed to starting] -- coming in, not having your name in the lineup every day," he said. "But it's also a challenge to be a utility guy as far as to be able to move around in different positions and be able to come off the bench.
"In the American League, I was getting pinch-hit for late in the game, and now in the National League, I am pinch-hitting late in the game. It's kind of funny how things turn around. It's a new opportunity to get some at-bats and go play defense and help your team win, and that's fine with me."
Hannahan doesn't have any problems with the switch in roles from starter to utility player, a move some might perceive as a downgrade.
"I sleep just fine at night being a utility guy," Hannahan said. "I think if you ask any utility guy, of course, they want to be a starter. In reality, it is what the team really needs and whatever is going to benefit the team in order to win [that matters most]."
But does Hannahan think that the trade of a utility man is undervalued?
"At times, because a lot of guys can't go out and play all of the different positions," he said. "Anyone can go out there and take fungoes [during batting practice] at any position and look like they can play that position. Until you get thrown into a game and you get a ball hit to you, it's a different story."
Whether he's a starter or utility man -- in Cleveland, Cincinnati or anywhere else -- his identity will never change.
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.