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MWL notes: Washington finding his way05/26/2011 10:00 AM ET
By Curt Rallo / Special to MLB.com
Twenty games into his season at Chipola (Fla.) Junior College last year, LeVon Washington was batting .190 and reality splashed a bucket of cold water in his face.
"I told my parents, I should have taken the money," said Washington, who turned down $1 million from Tampa Bay as their No. 1 pick in 2009. "I told them, I don't know if I'm going to see it again this year. But then I started playing well, and everything worked out."
What worked out for Washington is getting drafted by Cleveland in the second round of 2010 after hitting .327 with eight homers at 25 RBIs at Chipola. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound left-handed hitter signed for $1.2 million and is now taking the field every day for Class A Lake County of the Midwest League.
"It was a crazy decision I made," Washington said. "If I had to go back, I'd probably never turn down a million dollars again.
"I was really excited when it happened with the Rays," he said. "I could have been playing two hours from where I lived. I thought it was a good opportunity, but then, they didn't want to sign me. I was mad."
Washington, a native of Gainesville, Fla., nearly took matters to the brink with the Indians, signing 10 minutes before the deadline. Although he feels he is playing catch-up in his pro career, he is glad for the college experience.
"As it turns out, a year of college really helped me mature," the 19-year-old said. "I couldn't see myself coming out of high school and doing this, playing every day, doing what a professional has to do.
"I'm still catching up at this level," said Washington, who had a brief three-game stint in the Arizona League last year and joined Lake County earlier this month from extended spring training. "I have a lot of work to do in the outfield. Playing everyday is different for me to deal with. If you're not ready, you still have to play. You don't get time to practice your swing. If you're not feeling good, you still have to go out there and play."
Washington is in center field since shoulder surgery two years ago ended his days as an infielder. The transition has been trying.
"I played the infield my whole life," Washington said. "My first year of the outfield was last year. I have a lot to learn. It's a lot harder. There's a lot more space to cover. I feel I've gotten a lot better since I signed. I'm comfortable out there, but I have to get better."
Captains hitting coach Jim Rickon said Washington has been working hard at the plate and in the field as he aims to improve his skills as an outfielder. Washington is hitting .192 in 14 games this season.
"LeVon has a lot of speed and he can handle the bat pretty well," Rickon said. "He covers a lot of ground in the outfield. We haven't put too many expectations on a timetable. This is his first full season in professional baseball. He's working hard at developing at a pace that's going to work to get him called up to the Major Leagues.
"He's learning what type of player he is at the plate in terms of his at-bats," Rickon added. "He hustles and he works hard. We're going to try to get him to utilize the bunt a little more. He's still learning how to put a professional at-bat together for his skill. That's a process for every player at this level."
Diamond on the diamond: Dayton pitcher Blaine Howell pulled off quite a pitch earlier this season. The Asheville, N.C., native proposed to his girlfriend, Kelsey Lyman, on the field after working with the Dragons' entertainment staff to set up the moment. He told Lyman that the club needed someone to throw out the first pitch, and asked if she'd be able to do it. Howell caught the ball behind the plate, and then ran out to greet Lyman. But instead of pulling out the baseball to give to her, he dropped to one knee and pulled out an engagement ring.
"Ever since I was a freshman in college, I thought it would be a neat idea to propose to my future wife on a baseball field," Howell said. "Baseball is a huge part of my life, and it would have to be huge part of my wife's life."
Wisconsin cycle: The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers pulled off a team cycle in a 10-2 victory against Peoria. The Rattlers scored seven runs in the fourth inning with six of the runs coming with two outs. Wisconsin had three singles, two doubles, a triple and a three-run homer by Mike Walker in the inning.
One to remember: Clinton left-hander James Paxton struck out 12 batters in six innings to earn his first win in affiliated baseball. The LumberKings knocked off Cedar Rapids, 7-1.