It requires quick feet, great range and a sharp arm.
It’s one of the most demanding positions in baseball. It’s the linchpin of an infield.
But life as a shortstop was boring to Bobby Dixon.
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He’d rather be on the rubber, pitching from the stretch with baserunners buzzing around him like gnats, the fortunes of his teammates hinging on every fastball.
Dixon is having a lot of fun this season, closing for the State College of Florida Manatees, who are off to next week’s JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colo.
He has nine saves and a 0.60 ERA. Understandably, confidence flows through SCF’s roster when Dixon jogs into a game.
“Game over,” said SCF starting pitcher Josh Renfro, “when he’s on the mound.”
“It’s over,” said Manatee alum and SCF outfielder Tyler Rocklein. “That’s pretty much it.”
A sophomore, Dixon was a solid shortstop during his prep days at Bayshore. But deep down, he wanted to pitch.
Scratch that — he knew he could pitch. And he backed it up during his senior year, when he threw 140 pitches at Punta Gorda Charlotte, ranked fourth in the state at the time, in the first round of the Class 5A-District 12 Tournament.
He struck out 10 and allowed 10 hits but held on to fuel an 8-3 Bayshore victory.
“I didn’t really want to let anyone down,” he said.
The next night against Manatee, Dixon came in and recorded a save, recording the final out with Rocklein waiting on deck.
“He’s not the one who wants to be taken out of a game,” Renfro said.
While some guys shrink under the pressure, Dixon swings the other way, clamoring for the baseball when others would be begging to give it away.
“You’ve got to want it,” he said.
He wants his teammates to want him out there. Renfro wanted him out there after throwing 7 2/3 innings against St. Petersburg College in the JUCO state tournament and watched from the dugout while Dixon recorded the final four outs.
“In the back of your mind, you know that the game’s over,” Renfro said. “As a starter, if you get to the seventh or start the eighth inning and you know he can come in ... you’re pretty comfortable.”
There’s nothing too tricky about Dixon’s stuff. The slender righty simply slings his stuff at the hitter and challenges them to hit it. Thus far, few have — he has allowed two earned runs in 30 innings while striking out 28.
“I just want to win. It’s just a will to win,” said Dixon, off to Palm Beach Atlantic next year. “I’m the most competitive person ever.”
He found that on the pitcher’s mound and in the bullpen. Now, playing shortstop is an afterthought.
“I’ll sometimes go back there for fun,” Dixon said, “to relive the past.”
No need for that now, especially since there is so much fun in the present.
Next week, he and the rest of the Manatees head to Colorado, where they will try to win a national championship. If they get a chance, expect to see Dixon with the ball in his hands.
His teammates wouldn’t want it any other way.
Neither would Dixon.