Carolina notes: Fields back with force

Blue Rocks first baseman making triumphant return to Minors

By Jeff Seidel / Special to | August 1, 2012 6:00 AM ET

Matt Fields nearly retired after the 2011 season. The Wilmington Blue Rocks are very glad he decided to keep playing.

After beginning the season in independent league ball, the Royals picked up Fields in mid May and assigned him to Wilmington. Fields, who spent the first seven years of his baseball career in the Rays organization, has shown power before -- but nothing like this. The first baseman banged out 13 homers in his first 34 games through Monday and is batting a career-high .315.

The 27-year-old debuted in the Minors in 2005 and played as high as Double-A but seriously considered calling it quits after spending all last season with Southern Illinois in the Frontier League. But several people close to Fields pushed him to keep playing, so he returned to the Frontier League to start the year in hopes a Major League club would come calling.

"I'm extremely happy I didn't quit," Fields said. "It would have been a big mistake that I would have regretted for the rest of my life."

He decided to come to Wilmington with an attitude to just have fun and not "force the issue." Fields said that really helped him a lot.

In addition to mental adjustments, Fields changed his approach at the plate. Instead of trying to pull every pitch, the Seattle native stuck with just hitting the ball where it's pitched. And he's got enough power to drive the ball in those situations, something that's amazed Wilmington manager Vance Wilson.

"His power is incredible -- it's as much as you'll see," said Wilson, who played in the Majors for parts of eight seasons. "It's as much right-handed power as I've ever seen."

Wilson said Fields has been solid all-around on offense. He gets on base, scores runs and now understands that if he makes solid contact, the ball will travel. Plus, the skipper's been pleased with Fields' defense at first.

"The organization's been thoroughly impressed," Wilson said. "Also, with the defense ... and the all-around stuff that he brings, I think we got a steal here and should hang on to him as long as we can."

Fields said, although he's a bit surprised at his stats, he knew a performance like this was possible. He certainly is enjoying the game now and won't be thinking about retiring anytime soon.

"I think putting all that pressure on myself kind of blinded me from the fact that every situation is a learning process," Fields said. "From here on out, I'm going to continue to play until my body won't allow me to."

In brief

Catch that thief: Lynchburg's Nick Ahmed has three stolen bases in his last 10 games and leads the Carolina League with 31 steals this season. Ahmed had a .273 average through Monday's games.

On a roll (out of town): Kyle Hendricks has rebounded after a 1-6 start to win four of his next six starts for Myrtle Beach. Hendricks has 112 strikeouts and just 15 walks so far this season and an impressive 2.82 ERA despite his 5-8 record. He was sent to the Cubs on Wednesday as part of a package for Ryan Dempster.

Late rally: Winston-Salem broke open a close game with a six-run rally in the top of the ninth inning against Myrtle Beach on Sunday. The Dash got three singles, a double, triple and homer to snap a 2-2 tie and pull out an 8-2 victory over the Pelicans.

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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