Knives, machetes, flaming objects and, of course, bats and baseballs. Bowling Green shortstop Derek Dietrich
has been an accomplished juggler since age 8. About the only thing that isn't up in the air around Dietrich is his baseball career.
Though juggling is something Dietrich does for children at various hospitals and community events, it even has a baseball purpose.
"It's just something fun I keep doing to help with the hand-eye coordination," Dietrich said.
Judging by his baseball numbers, juggling is paying off.
Dietrich, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound left-handed hitter, broke Bowling Green's franchise record with 16 homers this season. The 22-year-old Parma, Ohio, native is hitting .294 on the heels of a four-hit game Sunday in which he drilled a homer and two doubles.
Originally drafted in 2007 by the Houston Astros in the third round out of St. Ignatius High School, Dietrich opted to attend Georgia Tech. Although some members of the 2007 Draft class have advanced to the Majors, Dietrich doesn't feel that choosing the college path impeded his career.
"I'm so fortunate that I had the opportunity to go to a school like Georgia Tech and play for a head coach like Danny Hall," Dietrich said. "I enjoyed every minute of it. I felt like I developed and became better as a student, a person and a player. I feel I'm in a better spot having gone to Georgia Tech for three years."
Dietrich didn't pass when the Tampa Bay Rays drafted him as a second-rounder in 2010. After 45 games of short-season ball last season, he set his sights on preparing for a full season in 2011.
"I took it upon myself to really train hard, but smart, this offseason to get my body ready for the grind of a full season," Dietrich said. "I feel like I'm as strong in August as I was at the beginning of the season, and maybe getting stronger. It is a grind. That's why routine and preparation are so important."
Dietrich said he has a tremendous resource in his grandfather, former Major Leaguer Steve Demeter, who was involved in professional baseball for more than 50 years in a variety of positions.
"Having a grandfather, someone I'm very close to, be in professional baseball for 52 years, playing for 25 of them -- managing, scouting, coordinating -- is a tremendous resource," Dietrich said. "He has a wealth of knowledge that he is constantly passing down to me. It's awesome to have someone like that in my life. My grandfather taught me to play the game the right way and respect the game."
Bowling Green manager Brady Williams said Dietrich has an outstanding future in baseball and that going the college route didn't hold him back in terms development. He said that Dietrich has a tough mind-set on the field and off.
"Every good player is a little stubborn, because they know they're good," Williams said. "It's OK to be like that. I think you need to be like that. You don't need to listen to everything. You take in some things from everybody and try to put it to your game. It's a good thing for Derek. He works hard. He takes advice, I wouldn't say on everything. He takes the good and puts it to work."
Dietrich possesses an intellectual approach to baseball and has a critical eye toward development.
"It's a part of my career that I'm trying to learn, when to speak up and when to back off a little bit," Dietrich said. "I'm sure it's something every player learns. I've always been very outspoken and outgoing with a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm. I love to play the game hard and play it the right way. Most of the time I let my actions speak instead of my words. All of my coaches and managers respect that. You do need a little bit of that edge on the field."
In the money: South Bend second baseman Niko Gallego and former Silver Hawk Ollie Linton were both extras last fall in the filming of Moneyball, scheduled to be released in September. Based on the book by Michael Lewis, the film features Brad Pitt in the story of Billy Beane, who as general manager turned the Oakland Athletics into contenders using economic and analytic principles. Gallego and Linton were involved in a scene when young Billy Beane tries out for his high school team. "Our goal was to make that actor playing the young Billy Beane [Reed Thompson] look like he was a better player than all the professional players who were out there," said Gallego, whose father, Mike, is Oakland's third-base coach. "It was intense. The director [Bennett Miller] would yell at the actors. You didn't want to be in the wrong spot, because they were going to get into you."
Rattler on a roll: Wisconsin's Nick Shaw owns a 14-game hitting streak. A 25th-round pick in the 2010 Draft, the Timber Rattlers second baseman has gone 21-for-59 during the span to raise his average to .269 for the season.
Brilliant return: Clinton right-hander Stephen Kohlscheen struggled in his first 15 outings with the LumberKings, going 1-3 with a 6.39 ERA before being sent to short-season Everett. In nine games with the AquaSox, Kohlscheen went 2-0 with a 3.03 ERA and was sent back to Clinton. He promptly pitched six scoreless innings against Burlington, allowing three hits while striking out six and walking three in a 4-1 victory to earn Pitcher of the Week honors.