Focus On: The first winning streak
And that’s what they call small ball.
Might as well get used to it.
This season’s Boise Hawks have about as much power behind the plate as I do in the Cubs organization.
But the Cubs do happen to be a National League team. And as I was told by Oneri Fleita, the Cubs director of player development, the players the Cubs are looking for are the type that play their brand of baseball.
After a solid 3-2 win on Monday that moved the Hawks to 3-7 on the year and gave them the first back-to-back wins of the season, those types of players are becoming more obvious.
I sat with Tampa Bay Rays scout, and former Major League pitcher, Jayson Durocher during the game on Monday and tried to learn about the guys he had his eyes on.
The first name he gave me was Jose Valdez.
His exact quote on him was, “That guy is the fastest player I have ever seen on any level, ever.”
That’s a lot coming from a guy that played against the best.
“The thing about a guy like that, is he forces the defense to be aware of him. He changes the game a little.”
Take the 10th inning of Monday’s game for example.
Valdez came up with runners on first and third, and everyone in the stadium knew he was going to put the ball on the ground. He laid down a perfect bunt and nearly beat out an infield single on what is typically a routine sacrifice. The play moved runners to second and third, and ended up setting up a game-tying, or game-SAVING double.
Casey Kopitzke talked after the game about how a small-ball player like Valdez puts pressure on the pitcher and defense each time he comes up.
“There, they made the play on him,” Kopiztke said, “But it moved the runners to second and third. The next batter scores two runs, and it’s a tie game.”
Durocher was candid about players like Valdez. Pitchers hate the kind of player that adds pressure. If a player can stretch a single into a double, or change the way the defense plays, it pays dividends for the team batting.
As long as the Hawks play their role in the organization, the wins could keep coming. Many have said the team seems to be emotionally rallying behind its coach in a time of need.
But with two wins in a row, and a group of players looking more like a team than any other point this season, Kopitzke gave the credit to the players.
“I think they’re just hitting their stride.”
And if the team’s stride is anything like Valdez, two wins can become three very quickly.