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SAL notes: Bichette keeps battling

RiverDogs third baseman managing expectations, adversity
August 16, 2012
When a son has the same name as his father who happened to make a name for himself in the Major Leagues, the expectations can be excessive at times. That's understandable for Dante Bichette Jr., whose dad was one of the big bats of the Colorado Rockies' Blake Street Bombers.

"I've always had people putting that kind of pressure on me," Bichette said. "Even as a 12-year-old in travel ball, you'd be surprised what people say. But my parents raised me to not worry about that kind of stuff. Honestly, the way I look at it, if it works out, that's great, but if it doesn't, it wasn't supposed to happen."

So far, Bichette has had success similar to that of his father, at least at this point in his young career. After hitting at a .640 clip in high school in Orlando, Fla., he became the top pick of the New York Yankees in 2011, going in the supplemental first round with the 51st overall selection. His initial plans centered on going to the University of Georgia before the Yankees came calling on Draft day.

"The reason I chose Georgia was I loved Dave Perno and the rest of the coaching staff," Bichette said. "So it was going to be real easy to go to school if I wanted to. Right before the Draft, I was on the phone with Coach Perno, and I told him if I was drafted on the first day, I was going to sign. If not, I was going to be a Bulldog. He was the first guy to call me and say congratulations."

Bichette signed quickly with the Yankees for a reported $750,000 and went to the Gulf Coast League. He overcame a slow start to hit .342/.466/.505 and lead his team to the championship while garnering Most Valuable Player recognition. That performance helped earn the 19-year-old a promotion to Charleston and the South Atlantic League to open the current campaign.

In his first full professional season, Bichette has encountered the highs and lows associated with the low Minors. He has played well at third base, displaying a strong arm, above-average athleticism and soft hands. He also has lightning-quick hands at the plate, impressive discipline and power that should develop as his body matures. Through Aug. 14, he was hitting at a .241 clip with 20 doubles, three triples, two homers and 37 RBIs.

"The biggest thing has been handling the adversity," Bichette said. "This is not a real hitter-friendly league, and it's a real mental grind with the travel and everything. I had a few guys in the organization come down and talk to me and that really helped me out."

Perhaps the greatest help to Bichette has been the guidance of his parents. He talks often with his father, who has worked with him on the physical aspects of the game for as long as Dante Jr. can remember. As far as the mental part is concerned, Bichette credits his mother, Mariana. Bichette also played tennis while growing up and says that experience has contributed to his success from a mental perspective as well as with his hand-eye coordination.

"The big thing my dad has always said is it was going to be a grind and at a certain point it's going to be the guys who are tougher mentally and not so much physically that are going to succeed," Bichette said. "That's proven to be right based on everything I've seen this year."

In brief

Knocking on wood: Rome left-hander Alex Wood continued his spectacular pitching Aug. 14 when he scattered six hits over five shutout innings to help guide the R-Braves to a 5-0 victory at Greenville. In his last six starts, the 2012 second-round pick out of the University of Georgia has allowed two earned runs, 14 hits and five walks while striking out 23 batters in 27 innings.

Fourteen for Foltynewicz: Lexington's Mike Foltynewicz notched his league-leading 14th victory after throwing seven shutout innings in the Legends' 10-1 victory over Savannah on Aug. 14. Buoyed by Justin Gominsky's four RBIs, Foltynewicz is one win shy of the Lexington single-season franchise record established by Mike Nannini in 2001.

Giants, 'Jackets renew vows: The Augusta GreenJackets and San Francisco Giants renewed their Player Development Contract, extending the agreement for two years through the 2014 campaign. The teams have had an affiliation since 2005.

Bill Ballew is a contributor to