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When your grandfather gives you the nickname "Hank" in honor of Hank Aaron before you've ever picked up a baseball bat, it would be understandable if that set high expectations for a toddler.
But while we certainly won't go so far as predicting an Aaronesque career for Angels catching prospect Hank Conger, early indications are that Grandpa Conger may have been onto something with his little slugger.
"It was a lot to live up to," Conger said of the moniker tagged on him by his paternal grandfather, who had trouble pronouncing his given name, Hyun Choi, which reflects his Korean-American heritage.
The legend of "King Conger" began to take shape in his early teens in Huntington Beach, Calif. At a memorable youth tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y., he swatted a pair of homers, one from each side of the plate, in the same game.
Selected with the 25th overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, Conger already has proven himself to be a clutch run producer, a consistent .300 hitter who averaged more than an RBI per game this season.
The only thing that has slowed his rise up the Angels' tower has been a string of injuries that have limited his time each year -- a broken hamate bone (2006), back and hamstring trouble (2007) and a slightly torn shoulder muscle suffered during Spring Training that limited him almost exclusively to DH duty this season.
Held back at extended spring training until right after Memorial Day, once Conger joined the Advanced Class A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes he showed that his bat had not lost any of its potency.
In 73 games, he hit .303 with 13 homers and 75 RBIs, posting a .517 slugging percentage and batting .418 with runners in scoring position and .354 with men on base.
In one memorable three-day stretch from July 16-18, he had a three-homer game and a two-homer, six-RBI contest. It was the first time he homered from both sides of the plate since that day as a tween in Cooperstown.
All the while, Conger missed being able to get out there on defense. He caught 10 games, including seven in the final month of the season, but is still not 100 percent.
"It was pretty tough because I feel like I've had a setback on the whole catching aspect of things and didn't get much of a chance to work with our pitchers," Conger said. "But I was always trying to get help and information from our pitching coach, from the catchers who were catching, everyone, because that's really the toughest part.
"The whole catching the ball and throwing it down to second base is probably the easiest part compared to handling a pitching staff. And I miss that a lot."
When the Quakes' season ended in a one-game playoff, Conger unexpectedly was promoted to Double-A Arkansas, which made the Texas League playoffs despite finishing 16 games under .500. As the Travelers' DH, he helped produce one of the most unlikely championship runs. And his 13 RBIs in eight postseason games was the second-highest total of any Minor Leaguer.
But Conger's injuries have cost him valuable development time behind the plate, a job in which he needs to go through the reps. He knows this and the Angels know this. He has a strong arm but not a lot of experience, so instructional league action was paramount.
In Arizona, he's still DHing in games but has been catching bullpen sessions and doing all the defensive drills with the other backstops. The only thing missing from the equation is throwing, and player development director Abe Flores is hoping Conger will be able to add that when he gets to the Dominican Republic.
Conger is one of a dozen Angels who will participate in the Dominican instructional league starting late this month. Even with the setbacks, he has a huge future, one that should continue to be behind the plate.
"We're going to exhaust every option," Flores said. "He's still young and has the chance to be an impact player."
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.