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Who says you can't go home?

Minor league trek brings Hiser back to his hometown

Minor league trek brings Hiser back to his hometown

April 25, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

P.J. Hiser has his eyes focused on where he wants to go.

And that gaze is only sharpened by the feeling of where he's been.

Hiser is running the treadmill in his chosen career as a professional baseball player. As a member of the Lake County Captains - the Class A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians - he's one important step closer to making it to the majors someday.

His added perspective, though, comes by pure coincidence. The Captains are in the South Atlantic League's Northern Division with the Hagerstown Suns, which gave the South Hagerstown and Hagerstown Community College graduate the first of three chances to return home and play in the familiar surroundings of Municipal Stadium.

"As long as I keep moving up, I'm in good position," Hiser said before Monday's game at Municipal Stadium. "It was neat to be coming back home.

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"It was great riding on the bus past all the places you know and it's great to come home and see the family. It's like a little vacation that gets you back grounded again and to see your roots. It kills me to just be watching on this trip."

Hiser's trip to Hagerstown is purely a visitation. He is on a five-day disabled/inactive list for the Captains with some soreness in his surgically repaired right (throwing) shoulder. Hiser, who had the surgery 1 years ago, has spent his weekend home getting precautionary treatment.

"I'm on the inactive list because they wanted to take care of it before it got any worse," Hiser said. "We still have 125 games left in the season. Tomorrow, I'm going to start throwing again and then progress from there and see what the doctors say. I have to be able to throw before I can hit. The shoulder doesn't hurt when I'm hitting. They want to make sure I'm 100 percent before they make a move."

After leaving HCC, Hiser went on to star as an outfielder and pitcher at the University of Pittsburgh. Then came a middle round selection by the Indians in the 2004 draft that brought on many changes - the move from aluminum to wooden bats and a switch in position.

"I'm pretty much doing everything - outfield, first base and designated hitter," Hiser said. "I had been DHing a lot because of the shoulder. We have a tremendous amount of talent on this team. We have a lot of guys who were top five picks on the team."

Hiser has played eight games for the Captains and is hitting .111 with one home run and four RBI.

Even when Hiser is available, the Captains are in the same mode as most minor league teams in the early season. Through the first month, many teams are interchanging players to give them time while defining roles.

"I have been kind of playing two and then sitting," Hiser said. "We have a new coach and he is trying to get a feel for everyone. Everyone is playing and everyone has had to sit so far. When we all play, it's kind of like a pitching rotation on when you are in."

Even in the murky, uncharted picture of minor league baseball, with its nomadic travel patterns and roller-coaster emotions, any trip that involves familiar surroundings brings back memories while recharging aspirations.

"It's nice," Hiser said about coming back to Municipal Stadium. "I feel like I did when I was playing for the Hagerstown Braves. I'm seeing people in the stands that I haven't seen in a while."

Most of the time, Hiser plays at Classic Park, which is home to the four-year old Lake County franchise. It's much newer and refined compared to the 76-year-old digs of Hagerstown.

For many players, Municipal Stadium is a mandatory layover. For Hiser, it's a piece of who he is and who he wants to be.

"I see old friends and I know they are coming home from work while I'm getting the chance to go to the ballpark," Hiser said. "Coming back here makes me feel like I'm back in high school again. For me, any field anywhere is fine. Just being able to run around in a ballpark makes me feel like a Little Leaguer."

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