Jack Herman likes being a little different.
When he comes to the plate for the Hoppers, for instance, his walk-up music isn't a fast-paced piece to get his adrenaline pumping. Instead, it's the smooth, jazzy, old-time Big Band sound of Michael Buble singing "Feeling Good."
And that certainly applied to Herman Friday night when he drove in four runs to lead the Hoppers to a 7-3 victory over Kannapolis to open a four-game series.
"I'm wired all the time," he explained about his music, "so I need something to calm me down. I've always listened to Buble and I'm interested in music like Frank Sinatra. When I got here, I didn't have walk-up music so they put that one on. I had a pretty good game and decided to keep it."
It has certainly worked well. Herman delivered two of the game's biggest hits, a two-run single in the second inning to give the Hoppers a 3-1 lead and a two-run homer, his 10th of the year, in the seventh inning to provide some insurance runs and move the lead to 6-1. The four RBIs matched his career high and his three hits were a season high.
His at-bat in the second inning was crucial. The Hoppers loaded the bases with no one out but then made two outs with no runs scoring. There were flashbacks to Thursday night, when they twice loaded the bases against Asheville but couldn't score and eventually lost a doubleheader. Herman had two strikes on him when he lined a single to left field to score Luke Mangieri and Grant Koch.
"I didn't feel pressure," Herman said. "I just wanted to do my job for the team. I didn't want us to go without scoring with the bases loaded again. I wanted to put the ball in play with two strikes. I fouled off some pitches, then got a fastball middle in and put a good swing on it."
When he came up in the seventh, after Jonah Davis doubled, Herman launched a high fly to left field that easily carried out.
"My natural swing has a long follow-through and it looks like I'm upper-cutting the ball but I'm really not," Herman said. "I just happened to hit the bottom half of the ball and lift it."
Herman is just 19 years old but has made good strides this season. After some early success, he hit a 3-for-24 slump that dragged his average down to .213. He has steadily raised it to .270.
"He's being very aggressive," said hitting coach Chris Petersen. "He's using all parts of the field. He's always open to suggestions and we have good discussions in the dugout. When he hears something that makes sense, he puts it to use.
"On that single, he had a really good at-bat. He fouled off some tough pitches and when he got one he could hit, he was on time and didn't miss it."
Herman is different in a way other than his walk-up music. He was drafted out of high school by the Pirates last summer, but not until the 30th round. Most high school players selected that low elect to go to college to gain some experience and then go through the draft again.
"I was projected to go way higher than that," Herman said. "I had college as a back-up plan, but I knew I was mentally and physically ready to take on pro ball. I wanted to show that the 30th round was not representative of where I was as a player."
Playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, Herman went to the Gulf Coast League and posted a .340 average in 37 games with two homers and 22 RBIs. He was told he would probably play in a short-season league this season.
Herman was sent to extended spring training and hurt his hamstring right away. It took several weeks to get healthy, and then he was surprised but excited when he was told he was going to Greensboro. He joined the team in early June. The biggest adjustment, he said, has been learning how to deal with more off-speed pitches than he saw in the GCL.
Herman's production was aided by Fabricio Macias, who drove in two runs with a pair of singles, and Jonah Davis, who doubled twice and scored twice.
Colin Selby pitched six efficient innings, allowing one run on four hits and striking out five en route to his fourth win. Cody Smith was nicked for a pair of runs in the eighth inning, so Yerry De Los Santos came in to record a four-out save, his eighth of the season.
The series continues with a Saturday game at 7 p.m. Alex Manasa will start for the Hoppers.
PITCHING NOTES: The Hoppers lost another starting pitcher when Osvaldo Bido was called up to Bradenton … Bido was 11-5 and had tied the team record for most wins in a season … Replacing him on the roster is Noe Toribio, a right-hander who was 2-1 with a 2.40 ERA in seven games in the New York-Penn League … Also new is right-hander Will Kobos (1-3, 6.05 in five starts in the NYP) … Kobos, who is from Charlotte, replaces Luis Nova, who will go on the inactive list … Kobos will start Sunday's game and Toribio will be Monday's starter … Out of the 13 pitchers on the Hoppers' opening day roster, the only ones remaining are starters Steven Jennings and Manasa and reliever Cam Alldred.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.