Handy alteration lifts Thompson

May 18, 1999|By BOB PARASILITI

You got to hand it to Tyler Thompson.

He knew something was terribly wrong with his swing when he stepped to the plate for the Hagerstown Suns. He was getting more outs than results.

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After a lot of work and experimenting, Thompson had a big breakthrough in hitting consistency while the Suns were on the road last week.

Basically, he handed it to himself.

"It was just one of those kinds of weeks," Thompson said. "I just hope it continues. My approach to hitting was all wrong. I started using my hands and wrists more than I have been. I started to see what happens when you hit with your hands."


Thompson entered the 1999 season earmarked to be the Suns No. 5 or 6 hitter in the lineup. But he started to slide down in the order as his batting average started to fall.

It was tough to be hitting .195 for the season, especially after a modest .252 with four home runs and 32 RBIs at St. Catharines last season.

Something wasn't right here.

"I've been having trouble because I've been trying to use my big muscles too much and not the muscles in my wrists and hands," Thompson said. "I was trying to muscle out the hits."

Thompson left town last Sunday hitting less than .200, but things suddenly changed on the road. In a five-game stretch in Cape Fear and Macon, Thompson went 13-for-24 with five doubles and two home runs and 13 RBIs.

His average jumped 82 points to .277, and he lifted his slugging percentage 151 points to .515. And, remarkably, he did not walk or strikeout in the stretch.

"I had been doing some drills and started to hit the ball the other way (to opposite field). I started to see it was all in the hands."

Thompson turned red hot in Macon, going 8-for-11 (.727) in the first two games of the series, including a 6-for-7 night in the Suns' 13-inning, 10-9 victory on Thursday.

He backed it up by going 2-for-4 on Friday, including a two-run home run.

"I got my confidence up while at Cape Fear," Thompson said. "Then, when we got to Macon, I got a couple of hits, and then a couple more, and then I had 6-for-7. Then I came back the next day and hit the home run. It was really encouraging to see it all happening and seeing my average move up."

As hot as Thompson was, one had to wonder what was going to slow him down.

The Macon pitchers never figured him out. It took a plane ticket home to attend his sister's wedding to get Thompson out of the lineup.

"I really hated to quit hitting," Thompson said. "But I love my sister, and I wouldn't have missed her wedding.''

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