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Lockwood not content with early success

Rays prospect knows hard work is only way to continue development
August 19, 2014

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Rays prospect Hunter Lockwood is leading the New York-Penn League in a number of offensive categories, but he knows there's no room to rest on his laurels, especially if he wants to repeat as an All-Star at the Minor Leagues' higher echelons.

The 21-year-old outfielder is batting .268 with 13 homers and a New York-Penn League-leading 43 RBIs in 58 games with Short-Season Hudson Valley this summer.

In addition to leading the circuit in RBIs, Lockwood ranks first in slugging percentage (.513), extra-base hits (27), runs scored (39) and total bases (115). He's also second in homers, one behind Rowan Wick, who was promoted from State College last month.

"It's a great feeling to be here," said Lockwood, a 2013 11th-round Draft pick. "It's cool to come out here and be with the best guys in the league. It's a great experience. I'm looking forward to it.

"There's still definitely things I can work on. There are strengths and weaknesses, and I need to work on my faults. Specifically, I want to work on pitch selection. Strikeouts are the thing I look at the most. I like to swing that bat hard and hit the ball hard."

Lockwood played at the University of Oklahoma before transferring to Weatherford College and was selected by the Angels in the 17th round of the 2011 Draft but did not sign. In his rookie season, he batted .243 with nine homers and 34 RBIs in 64 games with Rookie-level Princeton, but he's made his biggest strides this year.

"I'm still new to the outfield. This is just the second season playing there, but the best way to learn is during batting practice by taking balls hard. I'm learning how to read balls off the bat and taking routes," he said.

The Renegades may have lost seven of 10 games entering the All-Star break, but the modest slide did not have a negative impact on voting. The Rays' affiliate has seven players at the game, more than any other team.

"Hunter has done so well at times," said Renegades skipper Tim Parenton, who's also managing the North All-Stars. "Bralin Jackson has done well, he hit .400 for a while. Lookwood has hit a couple home runs and Casey Gillaspie has been hitting. But it's been a different guy all throughout the year.

"We're bringing guys up through the pipeline and the Rays have drafted some players that are coming up through the system. This is a unique group and they're all playing well and getting along well."

Hudson Valley has three infielders (Casey Gillaspie, Jace Conrad and Coty Blanchard), two outfielders (Lockwood and Jackson) and two pitchers (Nolan Gannon and Hunter Wood) on the North All-Stars. It maybe comes as no surprise that the Renegades have the best record in the McNamara Division (41-22) and the second-best winning percentage (.651) of any New York-Penn League team.

"It shows that we have a lot of guys in our organization that have talent," Lockwood said. "We're having success now and hopefully we'll have success together at the next level. It's just all about staying consistent."

In brief

Moniker Madness: Joey Pankake or Jiandido Tromp, who has the better name? Fortunately, there's a contest to determine just that.

Voting is underway in Moniker Madness at to determine who has the Minors' best name. Pankake, the Connecticut Tigers third baseman, ranks 10th, while Aruba-born Tromp -- the Williamsport Crosscutters outfielder -- is back in 58th.

"I've seen the stuff about it on Twitter," Pankake said. "I hear about [my name] every day, and if you stay around long enough, you'll hear it today. We have great followers and they seem to like me."

While Pankake is an ususual name, Jiandido is a contraction of two names Tromp's parents liked when he was born.

"It's a combination of Jourene and Candido," Tromp said. "It's pretty fun because I never really knew I had a cool name. It's unique, so just keep voting."

Fannies in the seats: The Brooklyn Cyclones have been the best-supported team in the New York-Penn League for several seasons and 2014 is proving no different. The club has attracted 186,689 fans through 31 home games, an average of 6,022 per game. That's better than 1,700 more than Hudson Valley, which ranks second with total attendance of 133,326 entering the final three weeks of the season.

The Cyclones have topped the 225,000 mark in all 13 seasons at MCU Park, and while attendance from the All-Star Game won't count toward the official figures, the team has a chance to reach that milestone again this year. The all-time single-game high was 10,073 on Sept. 7, 2006 against Lowell. An official sellout is any announced attendance over 7,500.

Urena on track: Jhoan Urena is the only player in the league who's played every game this season. The Cyclones infielder has three hitting streaks of at least 10 games and he leads the circuit in hits, at-bats and games played.

"It's a big honor for these guys," Brooklyn manager Tom Gamboa said. "There are 14 teams in this league, so to be picked as an All-Star when you have 14 times 35 players, these guys are elite.

"Urena is the prototypical No. 2 hitter in the lineup, not just for me but hopefully when he gets to New York in a few short years. He can bunt and run and he can take any pitch in the strike zone and hit in behind the runner in the hole on a hit and run."

Happy anniversary: To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the New York-Penn League, All-Star jerseys featured the names of every player who graduated from the circuit to the Majors since 1939. Also, for the first time, the teams were comprised of players from the South taking on their North counterparts.

Brooklyn, Aberdeen, Jamestown, Mahoning Valley, State College, Staten Island and Williamsport make up the South affiliates, while Auburn, Batavia, Connecticut, Hudson Valley, Lowell , Tri-City and Vermont comprise the North, even though Connecticut is technically further north than Jamestown.

This is the second time the All-Star Game was played in Brooklyn. The Cyclones also hosted the midseason classic in 2005.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB