While most other clubs drafted pitchers in the first round of this year's 2011 First Year Player Draft, the San Diego Padres went out on a bit of a limb and chose position player Cory Spangenberg
. Just a few weeks into his professional career, the second baseman already looks like a very sound investment.
Through 18 games this season, the 10th overall pick is hitting .391 with 18 RBIs and one home run, and his .557 on base percentage leads the Eugene Emeralds. His fast start also contributed to the Ems' recent 14-game winning streak, which set a Northwest League record. Rogue Valley (1969) and Walla Wall (1973) were previously tied with 13-game streaks of their own.
His early success as a pro has also earned him his own accolades, as he was named as Player of the Week for the Northwest League for each of the first two weeks of the season. Still, the 20-year-old would not take any credit for the Emeralds' quick start this season.
"We have a good team, and we have a great coaching staff, and our team chemistry is unbelievable," Spangenberg said. "I'm just trying to get better in every aspect of the game. You can never be satisfied with where you're at."
The recognition is nothing new for the left-handed hitter. Spangenberg was the Big South Conference Freshman of the year at Virginia Military Institute in 2010, then transferred to Indian River State College in Fort Pierce Fla., where he compiled a .477 batting average.
Just a few days after being drafted, he signed with the Padres and even got a little taste of what it's like to take some swings in the batter's box at PETCO Field.
"The Padres have treated me very well," he said. "They flew me out there for a couple games, and I got to sit right next to the field. I also got to take [batting practice], so that was cool."
San Diego drafted Spangenberg with the intent of keeping him at second base, so he consequently said defense is his main focus as he develops in his professional career. As that development continues, though, his popularity continues to grow, and that's something he's already started to enjoy.
"Signing autographs after the game for little kids is awesome," Spangenberg said. "We have great fan support here in Eugene."
Although the pressure to live up to the hype may get to some, Spangenberg tries to take the simplest approach possible. He was in college just a few months ago but has already found his baseball groove by staying consistent in his demeanor, whether it's in practice, or a game situation.
He said if his baseball career hadn't panned out, he would have liked to have studied secondary education with the ultimate goal of teaching math. That's no longer his focus, though, and he said it's important to not focus on the hype surrounding his early performance.
"You can't really play with that pressure because if you do, it will just hurt you in the long run," he said. "You're playing the game you love for your job, so life can't get any better."
Streak ended: Eugene's 14-game win streak was halted with an 11-1 loss to Vancouver on Wednesday, during which Stephen McQuail left the yard twice, collected four RBIs and scored three times.
Sharing the wealth:: In addition to Spangenberg's award, the Emeralds also boast the Northwest League Pitcher of the Week. RHP Matthew Stites earned the honor after going 1-0 in four games, a span of 5 2/3 innings. He did not allow a single hit while walking two and striking our five.
Big kids: The Everett AquaSox announced an adult baseball camp, which will be led by former Mariner Dave Henderson. The camp, scheduled for Aug. 4-7, is open to anyone over 30 and will give participants the full professional baseball experience, including their own Everett AquaSox jersey.
Don't forget the ladies: The Vancouver Canadians are hosting their fourth annual "Ladies Day on the Diamond," in which the club invites the participants onto Scotiabank Field to learn baseball basics, includes how to accurately score a game, as well as proper training techniques. The one-day event takes place on Saturday, July 16.