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SAL notes: Nash mashing for Lexington04/21/2011 10:00 AM ET
By Bill Ballew / Special to MLB.com
It's a sight seen on youth league fields reserved for only the biggest of bashers. Coaches leap as though wasps resided in their underwear and frantically wave their arms, imploring their players to move back in the unrealistic hope of catching the baseball or at least avoiding the sudden impact of the missile that is about to be unleashed.
In Griffin, Ga., Telvin Nash was that kid.
"In T-ball, I remember it was the 7-8 World Series, and I was 6 years old and the biggest kid on the team," Nash said. "I told my coach I wanted to put the ball up real high so I could hit a home run. I did, and that was the first home run I ever hit. I remember, after that, all the infielders and outfielders would get way back and one kid even tried getting on top of the fence. That was pretty funny."
The Asheville Tourists might have considered placing an outfielder atop the fence at McCormick Field on April 17. After ranking fourth in the Appalachian League with 12 home runs in 2010, the right-handed slugger christened the 2011 campaign by going 5-for-6 at the plate, including three roundtrippers, a double, four runs scored and four RBIs in Lexington's 18-9 triumph.
"It was amazing," said Nash, who was batting .333 through his first six outings. "I kind of blacked out until after the game when my teammates said, 'Man, you hit three home runs.' I was just trying to hit the ball hard back up the middle and give my team an opportunity to win. Luckily, I was able to help my team while doing well myself. It was definitely exciting."
With his size and strength, Nash never had difficulty receiving attention, although his surroundings helped bolster his exposure. In the summers he played with East Cobb Baseball, a prestigious travel-oriented organization based north of Atlanta. And while playing at Griffin High School, one of his teammates was Tim Beckham, who was selected first overall in the 2008 Draft by Tampa Bay.
"It was always my childhood dream to play pro ball," Nash said. "I had the good fortune of having Tim as my teammate and all the scouts came in to watch him. While they were watching him, all I had to do was go out and perform. I watched how he handled himself around the scouts and on the field, and I feel that helped me with everything a year later."
But signing to play professional baseball was not an easy decision for Nash, even after Houston drafted him in the third round with the 100th overall pick in 2009. While he had committed to play baseball at Kennesaw State, he also gave strong consideration to playing college football. The two-way standout in high school had numerous Division I programs seeking his services on the gridiron, with Nash committing to the University of Miami.
"Griffin has always been a football powerhouse in Georgia," Nash said. "The town breeds football players. My dad played football and there were a lot of people telling me I should keep everything in the family. But I saw him go through two knee surgeries because of football, and I decided to go with the sport I felt I could play the longest and still be able to walk straight when I'm old."
Nash struggled shortly after signing for a reported $330,300 with the Astros when he hit .218 with a home run and 20 RBIs in 40 games in the Gulf Coast League. An injury landed him in extended spring training to open the 2010 season, a period in which Nash admits he grew up. On many nights he called home wondering whether he had made the correct decision by not playing football. As he continued to devote himself to the diamond game, however, he began to see improvements, particularly with his baserunning and outfield defense, which enabled him to clear both mental and physical hurdles.
After spending the bulk of 2010 at Rookie-level Greeneville -- he also played in four games at Tri-City in the New York-Penn League, Nash is settling into the cleanup role for the Legends, while seeing time defensively at first base and left field. Having devoted himself to baseball on a full-time basis over the past two years, he says the improvements are coming rapidly and more naturally, which is helping him create a solid foundation along with a few thrills and some excitement thrown in.
"I feel like I've made a lot of strides in a short period of time," Nash said. "You're going to strike out in baseball, especially if you're the type of hitter like me who isn't just trying to slap the ball around just to make contact. My focus is to lock it in, get a pitch I can handle and hit it hard. That's what I'm trying to do, and I believe I'm getting better at it."
Double Trouble: Legends C Chris Wallace also had three home runs and went 5-for-6 with nine RBIs in Lexington's 18-9 win on April 17. Wallace has hit safely in each of his first 12 games this season and owned a .409 batting average through 44 trips to the plate.
Stopper Material: After Lexington posted 31 runs and 33 hits in back-to-back games on April 16-17, Asheville starter Edwar Cabrera keyed a 4-1 win against the Legends by allowing only two hits and an unearned run over 7 1/3 innings. The Tourists left-hander retired 18 straight batters between the second and seventh innings to record his second victory in three decisions.
On-the-Job Training: Hagerstown OF Bryce Harper, the first overall pick in the 2010 Draft, has gotten off to a slow start by hitting .231/.333/.333 in his first 12 games, with 12 strikeouts in 39 at-bats. Harper does have a home run and seven RBIs and has looked strong while seeing action in right and center field.
Twice as Much Bryce: Greenville OF Bryce Brentz reached base in each of his first 12 games this season and failed to get a hit in just one, an 0-for-6 performance with a walk on April 16 at Savannah. Brentz had seven multi-hit games in those 12 outings while ranking among the league leaders with 20 hits (second), 13 RBIs (tied for second) and a .377 batting average (sixth).