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Sun's singular feat - doubles

April 23, 1999|By BOB PARASILITI

Every time Hagerstown Suns first baseman/designated hitter Jay Gibbons comes to the plate, he sees double - as in two-base hits.

"Singles are OK. I'll take them," Gibbons said. "But doubles are fine with me. But that is the way this team is. We have a lot of power in the lineup and not a lot of speed. The guys in the middle can go after the wall. We'll score runs in bunches."

If there is a focal point on the Suns offense, it is probably Gibbons. He entered Friday's game with the Delmarva Shorebirds as the sixth-leading hitter in the South Atlantic League with a .375 batting average.

But of his league-leading 24 hits, 11 were for extra bases, including seven doubles and four home runs.

"I can't really tell you why I hit a lot of doubles," Gibbons said. "I hit a lot of gaps, and they seem to squirt through. I have to get doubles ... I run too slow to get any triples."

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To say doubles rule Gibbons life is going a little far. No one knows if Lays (you can't eat just one) are his favorite snack, or if his favorite fruit is a pear, or if his favorite TV show was "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman."

And no, he doesn't date a Doublemint Twin.

Still, doubles seem to be a big part of who Gibbons is as a hitter and extra base hits are his forte.

First, consider that 45.8 percent of his hits this year are for extra bases (29 percent are doubles). But add to the equation that Gibbons won the Triple Crown in the Pioneer League last year, hitting .398 with 19 home runs and 98 RBIs, along with 29 doubles.

In less than two years in the Toronto organization, 43 percent of his hits are for extra bases and more than half (36) are doubles.

The bottom line is that Gibbons goes for the most bases he can get with the fewest number of swings.

"Every swing I take, I make sure I don't get cheated," said Gibbons, of Lakewood, Calif. "Every time I swing, I try to get a good cut at the ball. I like to hit the ball early in the count. If things aren't going well, I'm hitting with a lot of two-strike counts."

In a sense, Gibbons is starting a tradition in Hagerstown. For the second straight year, the Suns have a left-handed, power-hitting first baseman who won the Pioneer League's Triple Crown the year before.

Last year, that guy was Greg Morrison. Morrison hit .448 with 23 home runs and 88 RBIs at Medicine Hat in 1997 followed by a .276 average, 15 home runs and 72 RBIs as a member of the Suns.

"Last year, he was all everyone brought up in Medicine Hat," Gibbons said. "That was amazing. Then he put up some good numbers here last year. I'm happy for him, and hopefully I'll do the same."

That would mean the Suns might be able to double their pleasure, double their fun with another trip to the playoffs.

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