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Zepeda plays field again

April 16, 1999|By RON SOMERS / Sports Editor

'98 starter now moving around for Hagerstown

Jesse Zepeda has two strengths as a professional baseball player.

Versatility, which you can see on the field, and perspective, which can only be perceived in a converstation with the veteran Hagerstown Sun.

Zepeda spent most of the 1998 season playing third base for the Suns. He led the team with 82 appearances at that position.

This year, he'll be all over the field.

"I'm going to play all three positions in the infield and help out wherever I can,'' he said before Friday's home opener at Municipal Stadium.

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New Suns manager Rolando Pino said Zepeda will be his utility man.

"I'm going to use him at every position, even behind the plate,'' Pino said. "He's a great kid, a great guy to have on the team.''

He was talking about Zepeda's perspective - a mature and rational view of his place in the baseball world.

Zepeda could be all pouty about having to start another season with the Class A Suns, rather than advancing in the Toronto Blue Jays system.

But before Friday's opener, he swooped up grounders at second and cheerfully flipped them to the shortstop covering second and worked on his bunting technique under the watchful eye of hitting coach Ken Landreaux.

"I'm just happy to have the opportunity,'' he said during a short break.

"A lot of guys went home in spring training.''

He might not be rocketing toward Toronto, but he knows anything can happen in baseball.

"This game is contantly changing,'' Zepeda said. "I have a friend who played minor league baseball for nine years, and he told me, 'You never take the jersey off your back; you let them take it off you.'''

Zepeda is not about to take the jersey off, nor is the Toronto organization. Pino loves Zepeda's experience and expects him to show leadership on and off the field.

"I try to lead by example, not by talking,'' he said.

But this season, as one of the few returning Suns veterans, he's had to talk a lot to the team's new players, most of whom were seeing Hagerstown and Municipal Stadium for the first time Friday.

"The new guys ask a lot of questions,'' Zepeda said. "How's the field? How's this? How's that?

Zepeda has fielded all the questions aggressively, just like he hopes to handle everything that comes to him at second, short, third ... and even catcher.

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