|© MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.|
All-Star mates cool Hefflinger off06/19/2013 3:00 AM ET
By Alex Espinoza / Special to MLB.com
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Robby Hefflinger had no idea what was about to happen.
As he stood on the field following his MVP effort in the Carolina League's 12-2 win over the California League in the Class A Advanced All-Star Game on Tuesday, his teammate Blake Swihart asked to see his MiLB.com Star Award. Once he handed the custom-engraved bat to Swihart, two other Carolina All-Stars hoisted a cooler full of ice water over his head and gave him an impromptu shower.
"I totally fell for it," Hefflinger said. "Just dumped it all over me."
The icy chill might have been unexpected, but it was deserved after the evening Hefflinger had. Not only did he go 3-for-5 with two doubles in the All-Star Game, but he won the Home Run Derby in convincing fashion just hours earlier.
Usually, Hefflinger likes to hit line drives to wrap up his batting practice sessions, but he was hitting big flies before Tuesday's game. As a result, Hefflinger said his swing felt a little longer than usual. It didn't stop him from putting together a big game.
In 67 contests this year, Hefflinger has more home runs (18) than any other full season in his four-plus years as a professional. So what's behind his power surge in 2013?
"Every guy interviewing me asks me this question," he said with a laugh. "I tell them the same thing. I truly believe that it's an experience thing."
Tuesday's victory was extra special for Hefflinger, who shared it with Luis Salazar, his manager at Atlanta's affiliate, who also helmed the Carolina All-Stars. Just like Hefflinger, Salazar pointed at the slugger's Winter Ball stint in Panama this past offseason as a turning point for his success.
"That was big for him," Salazar said. "He came into Spring Training with a lot of confidence. He knows he is going to be here, playing every day and he really showed his power. That's what it takes. It takes confidence and he has a lot of confidence at the plate right now. He's always got power. Now he's getting better and better and better."
Hefflinger was drafted in the seventh round by Atlanta in 2009, but has yet to reach the Double-A level. But the 23-year-old isn't worried about a promotion just yet. After talking to former teammates Micah Owings and Evan Gattis, who both have big league service time, Hefflinger said he's focused on a pitch-by-pitch approach.
"I try not to worry about things like that," Hefflinger said of moving up. "That's what guys in the front office are for. My job is to play baseball and not to worry about that. My eye on the prize is obviously getting to the big leagues. That's what I want to do is get to the big leagues and I want to stay there. I don't want to go there for a couple days. I want to be there."