Winston-Salem first baseman Dan Black
started quickly this season. Through Monday's games, Black had a .322 average and ranked among the Carolina League leaders in a number of offensive categories.
That's not surprising because Black has adjusted well to each level of the White Sox farm system since the team picked him in the 14th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Purdue. He's also found a pretty simple solution to the puzzle of moving through the Minors -- lots of hard work.
"When it comes down to it, there's no other way to make it to the big leagues," Black said.
Black has embraced the hard work needed to find success on a daily basis in baseball. He didn't have a choice, for several reasons.
First came the hitting battles that all Minor League players encounter. Black has improved at each level. He hit .209 in 2009 with Class A Kannapolis and went back to Rookie-level Bristol in 2010. There, Black batted .288 with six homers and 33 RBIs in 57 games.
Last year, Black batted .286 with 18 homers and 89 RBIs in 135 games playing for Kannapolis in the South Atlantic League. The first baseman is batting .322 with seven homers and 22 RBIs after just 29 games with Class A Advanced Winston-Salem in the Carolina League this year.
"You have to learn what you can and cannot hit," Black said. "It's just a matter of ... getting used to the league. There's so many things to get used to."
Black's also had to deal with problems that come with changing positions. He spent most of his time catching and at third base at Purdue before the White Sox converted him to a first baseman.
He's still caught at times in the Minors and serves as the Dash's emergency backstop this season, but Black spends most of his time at first. That meant he needed to learn to play the position -- another task involving more work.
"At first base, it was a completely backward position for me," Black said. "Now I feel like I'm really comfortable there."
Winston-Salem manager Tommy Thompson also managed Black in Kannapolis last year and said pushing hard is all Black knows how to do.
"He gets after it," Thompson said. "He's very committed. I don't have to tell him to do things. You wish you had 25 guys like that."
Black works at his offense and defense. If there's a problem with his swing, Black will head to the cage to work it out; same thing if there's troubles in the field.
That's why it's a safe bet that Black won't relax after his encouraging start.
"It's pretty good so far, but there's a long way to go," he said. "It's like three marathons in a row. It's all about sticking to your routine and doing the same thing."
Unusual walk-off: Tim Smith got a different kind of walk-off to give Lynchburg a 4-3 victory over Myrtle Beach last Saturday. The Hillcats had runners on first and third with one out in the ninth inning when Smith hit a soft grounder to second baseman Santiago Chirino. He tagged the runner heading to second but couldn't get Smith to finish the double play -- and that let the winning run score.
A wild win: Carolina scratched out a run in the 10th inning Sunday to beat Frederick, 3-2. Carlos Moncrief started the inning with a triple and Clayton Scrader intentionally walked the next two batters, but Schrader threw a wild pitch with Anthony Gallas up to give the Mudcats the win.
A Complete night: Potomac's Rick Hague wrapped up a very successful night with a game-winning single in last Thursday's 5-4 victory over Wilmington. Hague got four singles and two RBIs to help the Nationals pull out the win.