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Clubhouse Chatter - Look outside box to find Hathaway's worth

June 12, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

If you are the type who is colored by numbers, it would be tough to get a full picture of the impact catcher Aaron Hathaway has had on the Hagerstown Suns.

Especially if you were reading the boxscore in Thursday's paper.

In big, bold strokes, Hathaway's line read 4-0-0-0 - meaning four at-bats, no runs scored, no hits and no RBI in Hagerstown's 6-5 win over Lake County. And even with that, the Suns may have never won the critical game with the Captains if Hathaway wasn't on the field.

"Since I started playing catcher, defense has become a priority," Hathaway said. "In college, I was a middle infielder, so I had to learn how to catch in a hurry. I didn't get a hit and I took it to heart. I got the pitches I wanted and made contact, but when I look at my bat and see the marks and the ball goes foul, I get upset."

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Hathaway came up big for the Suns in the usually unwritten part of the game - defensively. The Mets' fourth pick in the 2004 amateur draft was involved in three big plays that ultimately helped keep the Suns ahead in the South Atlantic League's first-half title chase.

The first, and maybe the most important, came in the first inning. Lake County's Argenis Reyes led off the game with a double - just like he had done on Tuesday in the Captains' 12-2 romp. The initial feeling was, here they go again.

But Hathaway gunned down Reyes as he tried to steal third base, almost as if he was making an emphatic statement for the Suns that it wasn't going to be so easy this time.

"I was kind of surprised he went," Hathaway said. "He had 17 stolen bases, but I wasn't really expecting it there. It helped out the pitcher (Matt Durkin) because it changed the situation from one out with a runner in scoring position to two outs and nobody on."

Hathaway topped it off with two more key plays in the seventh which prevented Lake County from blowing the game open. The first came when Marshall Szabo tried to lead off the inning with a bunt, but Hathaway pounced on it and delivered the out to first baseman Mike Carp in a less-than-perfect angle. Then with one run in and the bases-loaded, Hathaway was in the middle of a 1-2-3 double play to get Hagerstown out of harm's way with just a 4-3 deficit.

"Those were huge plays," Richards said. "His defense kept us in the game."

Hathaway was upset with his seventh-inning at-bat - a flyout to right to lead off the inning - but it may have been the lesson the Suns needed to get to Captains reliever Kyle Collins. Jim Burt and Ryan Coultas recognized Collins was leaving pitches up and followed with back-to-back home runs to give the Suns a 5-4 lead.

"I've been learning to separate my offense from my defense when I play," Hathaway said. "After I make an out, I go to the dugout and get on the equipment and start focusing on my defense because I have so many things I have to handle. I had some good swings (Wednesday) and didn't have anything to show for it. If I went 0-for-4, it doesn't mean much to me if we win."

Suns spots


· The faces have changed and the Suns have been two different franchises, but Lake County owns Hagerstown with a 32-8 record since 2003.

· Hathaway has thrown out 20 of 33 (60.6 percent) runners attempting to steal against him. Meanwhile, Jesus Flores is having a 42.7 percent success rate (6 of 14) in the category.

· The Suns are 4-6 since Dante Brinkley sprained his ankle during pregame warmups and was subsequently placed on the disabled list on May 30. Brinkley had been one of the catalysts of the Suns' success since he's second in the South Atlantic League in hitting and first in on-base percentage. Without the outfielder, Hagerstown is hitting .231 (77-for-333).

· Mike Carp is on his way back up the average ladder after a couple of weeks of struggling. Carp has been working on shortening his swing and trying to hit the ball to the opposite field. In his last eight games, the first baseman is 10-for-32 (.313) with six RBI and six runs scored to raise his average 24 points to .256.

· Ryan Coultas was the most consistent of the Suns' hitters against Lake County, going 8-for-14 (.571) in the four-game series. He hit .727 in the last three games of the set.

Milestones


· Injured - Starter Blake Eager was placed on the disabled list on June 5 with a muscle strain in his back. He is 4-3 with a 4.45 ERA in 12 starts.

· Promoted - The Suns received Aristides Almenar from extended spring training. Almenar, who debuted on Friday, pitched seven games at Brooklyn and started nine at Kingsport in 2004, going a combined 1-3 with a 2.03 ERA, 16 walks and 48 strikeouts. He signed as a free agent in 2001.

The week ahead


The first half reaches the homestretch as the Suns complete a four-game series with rival Lexington before returning home to close out the campaign with a four-game series with West Virginia. Hagerstown, Lexington and Lake County are bunched at the top of the standings and vying for the South Atlantic League North Division title, making the final three games of the series crucial.

Against West Virginia (Brewers), the last-place team in the division, all games start at 7:05 p.m. except for Sunday's, which is scheduled for a 1:35 first pitch. Thursday will be Thirsty Thursday and post-game fireworks. Saturday and Sunday will feature the second of the three 25th anniversary commemorative hats giveaways, highlighting the Toronto era.

The Suns will be conducting the Little League Home Run Derby on Friday and Saturday and fathers and sons will be allowed to play catch on the Municipal Stadium field on Sunday in honor of Father's Day.




Bob Parasiliti covers the Hagerstown Suns for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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