In an era when home runs are king, Salem-Keizer center fielder Malique Ziegler doesn't want anybody to forget about the burners on the basepaths.
Ziegler, the team leader in steals, has swiped 20 bags to go with a .272/.344/.402 line, and the speedster from Des Moines, Iowa, is taking full advantage of an aggressive style of base running.
"If you don't get a good jump, then don't go," Ziegler said, describing manager Jolbert Cabrera's stealing philosophy. "It doesn't matter who you are, either. Speed guy or not, if you can get a decent run into your lead and a jump, then go. We have a lot of green lights."
The Volcanoes employ a bulk approach to causing havoc on the bases, and while they've been caught stealing more than their fair share -- 63 times -- they've rung up 105 stolen bases going into Thursday's play. Eugene is second in the NWL in steals with 74.
Individually speaking, the Volcanoes have three of the league's top five base stealers. Ziegler is third, third baseman Manuel Geraldo has 19 steals in fourth and outfielder Bryce Johnson is fifth with 17. While Cabrera wasn't much of a base-stealer during his pro days, the Giants organization has someone who did it quite a bit to teach the young runners.
Vince Coleman, who stole 752 bases in his 13-year career with three consecutive seasons of 100-plus steals, is a roving baserunning and outfielder instructor. Ziegler said Coleman's teaching has been tremendous, and along with Cabrera's aggressive style, things fit for a lot of guys to steal bases.
"Those guys have been in the bigs before, and they know what they are doing," Ziegler said.
Ziegler, who was the starting center fielder on the Northwest League all-star team Aug. 1, has been successful in 74 percent of his steal attempts. A 22nd-round pick in 2016 out of North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City, Iowa, Ziegler shows his speed on both offense and defense.
In Wednesday's 4-3 win over the Hillsboro Hops, Ziegler didn't have much to show in the hit column, but he ran down a Bryan Araiza fly ball that seemed destined for the turf in the left-center gap. Ziegler hustled back toward the warning track and made a diving grab to end the fourth inning and keep the Volcanoes within a run.
Video: Salem-Keizer's Ziegler makes running catch
Speed has always been an equalizer for guys who don't necessarily pound the fences. It's innate, Ziegler said, and he's done everything he can to maximize and take advantage of his abilities.
"You don't have to put your best swing on a ball, you've just got to find a way to get on," Ziegler said. "You can't teach speed; it's a God-given gift."
Ziegler's All-Star season has hit a little bit of a lull -- he's hitting just .150 in his last 10 games as of Thursday -- but as the saying goes, "speed never slumps," so it wouldn't be a big surprise if he turns into his early-season form quickly.
He was among the league leaders in several offensive categories, and his 50 hits are just on the cusp of cracking the top-10 list. As the second half of the season rolls through the dog days of August, Ziegler will be an important part of the Volcanoes if they have any chance for postseason play.
NWL claims All-Star win: It took a little bit for the NWL All-Stars to come alive, but five runs in the fifth inning were enough to take care of the Rookie-level Pioneer League All-Stars, 5-4, on August 1 at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro. Tri-City's Luis Asuncion was named MVP after his opposite-field double sparked the decisive rally. Boise's Daniel Jipping won the Home Run Derby before the game, beating Idaho Falls' Robby Rinn 6-1 in the final round.
New hitting leader: Salem-Keizer's Bryce Johnson is now the NWL's leading hitter with a .339 average, 42-for-124 in 33 games. Hillsboro's Pavin Smith and Everett's Johnny Adams are tied for second at .326. Hillsboro has three active hitters in the top-10 in average -- Smith, Camden Duzenack (.315) and Daulton Varsho (.313) -- plus Eudy Ramos who was recently promoted to Class-A Kane County.