By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - For a guy who’s been an outfielder all of 10 days, Jay Estes looks right at home.
“I played probably eight games out there last year in junior college, and I’d never played (outfield) other than that,” said Estes, a junior. “I’d never practiced out there.”
Estes began the season as Auburn’s starting second baseman. When leftfielder Bo Decker injured an ankle three weeks ago, the Tigers eventually turned to Estes.
“At first, it wasn’t really comfortable, but now it’s getting better and better,” Estes said.
In only his second game in left, Estes misplayed a ball last Friday in the series opener against Florida, costing Auburn a run - an ‘I can’t believe that just happened’ moment for Estes.
“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” said Estes, whose glove alone knows the exact words he used to express his frustration.
Estes more than made up for the miscue, scoring three runs in Auburn’s 14-3 win.
After the error, Estes made a midgame switch to right field, where he’s started the past three games.
“Just a different spin on the ball,” he said. “I’ve played on the right side of the infield the last couple years. It’s the same spin in right field as it is at second base.”
Estes’ willingness to embrace a new defensive assignment fits with the ‘team first’ identity coach Butch Thompson created, along with Damon Haecker’s move to catcher and pitcher Cole Lipscomb’s transition to the bullpen.
“I think those are all good examples and we’ll keep making a big deal out of them,” Thompson said. “These guys have been so unselfish.”
“Whatever is best for the team I was willing to do,” Estes said.
After arriving at Auburn in the fall, Estes practiced exclusively in the infield. In the spring, he began taking fly balls in the outfield, just in case.
“We’ve really liked the move with Estes to the outfield,” Thompson said. “Now that we’ve taken him from left to right, he’s seeing the ball. We made a lot of plays in a lot of wind (in Auburn’s 7-4 win Tuesday at Georgia Tech). I liked him playing defense.”
Estes leads No. 16 Auburn with a .406 average over the past 10 games. For the season, he’s batting .333. His eight doubles are also a team high.
Auburn (18-5) seeks its ninth straight win Friday at 6 p.m at Georgia in the first of a three-game series.
“It’s probably the most fun I’ve had on a baseball field in a long time,” Estes said. “There’s no doubt we can do whatever we set our mind to, really.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer