Bowie second baseman Jonathan Schoop
began playing baseball at the age of 4 while growing up in Curacao. Like many youth on the south Caribbean island, he also loved soccer.
"I played [soccer] but stopped at about 15 or 16 to focus on baseball," said Schoop.
That turned out to be a smart decision as he was signed by the Orioles in 2008 as an international free agent.
Currently in his first season at the Double-A level, Schoop hit just .210 in April and had just two home runs in 189 at-bats through May.
"In baseball you need to get better and learn from your mistakes," said Schoop, who turns 21 in October. "At first I struggled a little bit and got off to a slow start. I worked on my mistakes. I worked on my balance with my hitting coach."
The results have been positive. Schoop hit four homers in June and smashed six in his first 19 games in July. Schoop appeared in the Eastern League All-Star Game on July 11 -- finishing the game at second base as a reserve -- and was hitting .246 with 12 homers, 15 doubles, one triple and 41 RBIs in 349 at-bats through Sunday.
He hit a grand slam July 13 at Reading, then homered in three straight games from July 15-17. Schoop, a right-handed hitter, was batting .301 with five homers against lefties and .220 with seven homers versus right-handers.
In the field he has been a regular at second base and has teamed up with shortstop Manny Machado to give the Orioles two promising middle-infield prospects. The two were also teammates last year with Class A Advanced Frederick, where Schoop hit .271 with five homers in 77 games after being promoted from Delmarva of the South Atlantic League.
"It's fun. We're like brothers," Schoop said of playing with Machado. "We've known each other for two years. I know what balls he can get. He knows my range and I know his range."
Schoop, the No. 3 prospect in the Baltimore system, saw action at short for Frederick when Machado was hurt in 2011 but then moved back to second when Machado was healthy.
Does he miss playing shortstop on a regular basis?
"I just want to be in the lineup and help the team win," said Schoop.
He has seen action at short at times this year, such as Saturday's home game with Binghamton, when Machado gets a day off or plays third base.
Bowie manager Gary Kendall watched Schoop struggle early in the year, but he's been pleased with his development.
"His errors have come in spurts," Kendall said. "I like his arm. Offensively, each day he is adjusting. He has to keep his swing short. I think he's doing quite well. He's done well on the basepaths. He's a competitor."
Welcome back: Former big leaguer C.J. Nitkowski made his first outing of the season Saturday with one inning out of the bullpen for Binghamton at Bowie. The 39-year-old lefty, signed by the Mets earlier this month, came on to pitch the fifth and did not allow a hit but walked two with a strikeout. A first-round pick of the Reds out of St. John's in 1994, Nitkowski last pitched in the Majors for Washington in 2005.
Impressive win: Harrisburg's Trevor Holder, a third-round pick in 2009 out of Georgia, got his first Double-A win Saturday in impressive fashion. The 25-year-old righty threw seven shutout innings and allowed just three hits in a 5-0 victory at home over New Britain. "I just try to learn from each outing," he told The Patriot News. "It's about learning each outing and learning how to attack hitters." It was the third start for Holder at Harrisburg after he went 5-3 with a 4.01 ERA for Class A Advanced Potomac to start the year.
Take two: Altoona had won just two games since the All-Star break entering Saturday's doubleheader against visiting Erie. But the Curve took both games, 5-1 and 1-0, as Mike Colla, Jeff Inman and Victor Black teamed up for a three-hitter in the nightcap. "Any day you can come away with two wins in one day is pretty good," Altoona shortstop Brock Holt told The Altoona Mirror. "We haven't been that good on doubleheader days this year, so to come away with two big wins was huge for us."