A member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team, Surhoff was taken as the number-one overall pick in the 1985 free agent draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. He hit .299 with seven home runs in 113 games as a rookie backstop in 1987, throwing out 35% of attempted base-stealers. Surhoff played more regularly in 1988, and while his average dipped to .245, he added 21 stolen bases.
Surhoff began playing more third base in 1988, when Paul Molitor moved to designated hitter. He alternated between catcher, first base, and third base from 1987 until he moved to the outfield in 1995. He posted solid numbers for the Brewers, but was criticized almost annually for failing to fulfill his potential.
A line drive hitter who rarely struck out or walked, Surhoff produced almost no power early in his career, reaching double-digits in home runs with the Brewers only in 1995. He finished sixth in the American League in batting in 1995, hitting at a .320 clip. His speed for a catcher was good, and he routinely led major-league backstops in stolen bases.
After signing with the Baltimore Orioles on December 20, 1995, Surhoff suddenly discovered his power stroke. Moving to the outfield full-time, he belted 21 homers in 1996, and 18 more in 1997. A late bloomer, Surhoff put together his finest offensive season in 1999, when the Orioles batted him third for the first time. Batting .308, he set career highs with 207 hits, 28 home runs, 107 RBIs and 104 runs scored, earning his first All-Star selection.
Surhoff's defense was never flashy, as most of his speed vanished with age, but he worked hard to become an above average defensive outfielder. His arm wasn't overwhelming but was accurate, and he led American League outfielders in assists in 1999.
With their core players declining, the Orioles asked Surhoff in 2000 to waive his no-trade clause so they could get younger as a team. He didn't want to leave Baltimore, where his family had settled, but finally agreed to accept a trade to a specific list of teams. On July 31, 2000, Surhoff was shipped to the Atlanta Braves for prospects Luis Rivera and Fernando Lunar.
After spending his entire career in the American League, Surhoff struggled when he moved to the Senior Circuit. He batted .289 for Atlanta, but with just one home run in 128 at-bats, and was limited to pinch-hitting duties in the postseason by a pulled right hamstring.
In his first full season with the Braves, Surhoff's former productivity continued to elude him, as he totaled just 10 home runs and 58 RBIs over 141 games in 2001. (GL/AGL)
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