Archive for Thursday, April 20, 2006

Opinion: Light guys, heavy hitters

April 20, 2006

Through the first half of the season the Basehor-Linwood baseball team has gotten home runs from about half the regulars in the lineup. Alex Smith, Robert Lewis, Augie Pierce, Jordan Coffman, Matt Fanning and Zach Davis have all gone yard.

Yep, that's Smith, Lewis, Pierce, Coffman. Hey wait a minute -- Fanning and Davis? The second baseman and the shortstop have hit homers? Yes they have, that's not a typo.

You expect guys like Smith and Lewis to get a hold of one every now and then. Smith, at 6-foot, 242-pounds and Lewis at 6-foot-1, 219-pounds, are both linemen on the football team with plenty of powerful bulk.

Meanwhile, guys like Fanning and Davis don't exactly look like long-ball threats in the on-deck circle. Davis wrestled at just 135-pounds and while he's probably put on some weight since then he's still one of the lightest guys on the team, if not the lightest. And Fanning isn't much bigger.

Still, both have shown that in the right park, with the right wind, they've got long-ball power. Davis nailed one out of the park at Santa Fe Trail on April 10. Fanning matched him by knocking one out of Field of Dreams on Monday.

After Fanning's blast, BLHS coach David Svoboda gave Davis a little good-natured ribbing next time he was on deck. Svoboda came over and asked his shortstop how he felt about his double-play partner tying him up in their home run race.

"Yeah, we're pretty powerful up the middle," Davis joked.

Whether their brief power surge was a fluke or not, Davis and Fanning are doing their job in the middle infield. Both have shown great range defensively and reliable arms.

That's really what Svoboda and the Bobcats count on them for; any power hitting is purely a bonus. Home run hitting is really the realm of guys like Smith, Lewis and Pierce who play in the outfield, first base and catcher, traditional power positions.

Back before guys like Alfonso Soriano and Alex Rodriguez starting jacking 40 homers every season, all a middle infielder was really expected to do even at the Major League level was provide solid defense.

Guys with absolutely no power could find a spot on a major league roster, as long as they could field at second or short.

Case in point, Al Newman, who played eight seasons for Montreal, Minnesota and Texas. Newmie had 2,701 career at-bats and hit exactly one home run.

Fanning and Davis already have that many homers in their high school careers, in far fewer at-bats.

But expecting them to hit many more might be a stretch. Fanning's teammate, Cody McCoy, said the last time he saw the second baseman hit one before Monday was back when they were 15-years-old and playing on a tee-ball field with a 200-foot fence.

Even if Davis and Fanning both finish the year with just one blast each, it still will have been a fun home run race for two guys who probably weren't expecting to hit any.

"Of course, mine was hit harder," Fanning said, with a grin.

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