STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The question was posed to Mitch Reeves, but his Mahoning Valley teammate was quick to answer for him."Oh, yeah," Hosea Nelson said with a laugh when Reeves was asked if he feeds off the rest of the Scrappers lineup.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The question was posed to Mitch Reeves, but his Mahoning Valley teammate was quick to answer for him.
"Oh, yeah," Hosea Nelson said with a laugh when Reeves was asked if he feeds off the rest of the Scrappers lineup.
Standing between the two was Tyler Freeman, rounding out the offensive All-Star trio from a Mahoning Valley team that sits atop the New York-Penn League's Pinckney Division going into Tuesday's All-Star Game at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
"It's a lot easier when you've got protection in your lineup," Reeves said. "Being able to hit around two other great hitters, it makes it a lot easier on myself. It's just a huge confidence boost when I get up there to the plate."
The three were in the South's starting lineup and were joined by pitchers Luis Santos and Randy Valladares in the bullpen. While none took credit for the Scrappers' success, Freeman can be considered the catalyst.
The 19-year-old leads the league in batting (.376), hits (76), doubles (21) and total bases (111) and ranks second in runs scored (36) and RBIs (32), mostly hitting second in the lineup. He echoed the sentiment of Nelson and Reeves while quickly pointing out another key to their individual and team success.
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"I think the biggest part of that is our coaching staff," Freeman said. "When we do have our highs, they know how to handle it for us and when we do lose, they make sure to let us know to get after it the next day. We don't get too high with our highs and don't get too frustrated with our lows, and I think that's been key to the success we've had."
Nelson started the season 0-for-12 before a three-hit performance on June 22 set the stage for a big July, one in which he earned Player of the Month honors. In 28 games, the 21-year-old outfielder totaled five homers, seven doubles, 22 RBIs and a .340/.376/.553/ slash line as Mahoning Valley surged into first place.
"I just felt the weight get off my shoulders," he said. "After that [first hit], I just started going after every pitcher as best I could. I was just attacking, and that was the biggest difference for me last month."
Reeves is second behind Freeman with 55 hits to go with four homers and 30 RBIs.
"Baseball is a sport of confidence," Reeves said. "It's so much easier to play when you're winning, and that's what we're going to try to continue to do for the rest of the year."
In BriefPLAYING WITH SWAGG:
Sure, he was drafted 10th overall by the Pirates two months ago, but Travis Swaggerty
has felt no pressure to live up to that billing or a $4.4 million contract during his first taste of professional ball.
"Because it's the same game every day, if I put added pressure on myself, it's going to be even harder to work out the bad times or enjoy the good times," MLB.com's No. 85 overall prospect
said. "All the Pirates guys have told me, too, that I don't have to prove anything more just because I'm a first-round pick. 'Just play your game and let things happen,' and I think I've done that pretty well so far."
Swaggerty, who turns 21 on Monday, has lived up to that first-round billing, hitting .288 with four homers and 15 RBIs in his first 36 games with West Virginia. While he quickly noticed how much better the pitching was compared to what he saw in his days at the University of South Alabama, all it took was his first career hit in his second game with the Black Bears for Swaggerty to feel like he belonged.
"Once I broke the ice, I guess I kind of realized, 'Man, this is my career, this is my job and this is awesome,'" he said. "I think I kind of just took the opportunity and ran with it. I've just embraced the grind every single day and if I keep doing that, this will continue to be fun."WELCOME TO THE HALL:
The league inducted Wayne Fuller, Marvin Goldklang and Andres Galarraga into its Hall of Fame during an on-field pregame ceremony. Fuller, who died in February, served various roles with Batavia for nearly four decades, while Goldklang -- who also is a member of the South Atlantic and Florida State League Halls of Fame -- serves as the chairman of the Goldklang Group, which has owned the Hudson Valley Renegades since 1994. Galarraga played for the 1981 Jamestown Expos on his way to a 19-year Major League career.PREGAME WASHOUT:
While the Hall of Fame induction went off without a hitch, heavy rain in the State College area forced the cancellation of on-field batting practice and the Celebrity Softball Game. Despite that, the celebrities, including former Penn State All-American running back and 1995 No. 1 overall draft pick Ki-Jana Carter, signed autographs for fans on the concourse.
Shane Hennigan is a contributor to MiLB.com.