Following a trip to the College World Series with Cal State Fullerton this June, Scott Hurst took a week to pack up shop before joining State College. He was eager to prove worthy of the Cardinals' faith in selecting him, and he pressed too hard out of the gate.
Hurst broke out with Titans his junior year, batting .328 with 12 home runs, but the 21-year-old collected just one hit in his first four games as a professional.
St. Louis was without a first- and second-round pick in the 2017 Draft. He was selected by the organization in the third round just five days following his team's elimination from collegiate postseason play.
"When I first got out there I was just trying to do too much, trying to be a player I was not and trying to live up to where I got picked," he said. "Once I stopped caring about expectations and where I got picked, it slowed back down and I started to have more fun."
In the 16 games since, the State College center fielder has hit safely in all but one game, posting a .343 batting average with 14 walks and three stolen bases during the stretch. He had three three-hit performances in the span of two weeks in early June.
For Hurst, the ability to bounce back so quickly is deeply rooted in his early college days, where he missed a portion of his freshman season with a back injury and followed it up with a .215 average his sophomore season before putting in a junior campaign worthy of being named to the ABCA/Rawlings All-West Region First Team.
"Going into junior year I made some adjustments and knew the struggles I went through," said the Glendora, California native. "Once I performed like I did this past year, I remembered what it was like to go through adversity, and not freaking out way too much when success wasn't coming out of that gates. I know how to get out of it a lot better than I used to. Staying with a positive mind-set and not getting down on myself, that's helped turn it around."
Having that kind of first-hand knowledge has been key to Hurst's ability to handle one of the hardest transitions in the game.
"Coming out to pro ball is definitely a different experience in doing what you need to do to get prepared," he said. "In college, the team is a big aspect, where here it's a little bit more individually. That's kind of the adjustments I needed to go through, learning how to do everything by myself and on the road. I think the adjustment period has gone easier being here for a little over a month now."
The whirlwind year of baseball, which started for Hurst in the winter months back in California, has not yet caught up to him. For now, he's taking things one day at time, learning each and every day how to adjust to this new lifestyle, which he admits may not fully hit him until he realizes that there are no more books to buy or classes to attend.
"Being able to go out and play professional baseball has always been a lifelong dream," said Hurst. "It's something I never take for granted, because I never know when my last game may be. I just love being out there, I love being with my teammates. I love playing the game hard, playing it the right way. It's hard to put into words how much all of this means this past year. It really hasn't set in yet, because I've been on the go so much. In the offseason when I start working out and have a little more downtime, it'll kick in a little more. It's been a blessing in my life."
Bird barrels up: Aberdeen's Ben Breazeale has been tough to tame at the plate. He has reached base in all 28 games played thus far, hitting safely in 26 of those, which includes a 16-game hitting streak. The Wake Forest product's .419 batting average tops the league, as does the rest of his slash line (.500 OBP and .610 slugging) and his 22 RBIs and 11 doubles. The league's best batting average for a season over the last decade was Staten Island's Connor Spencer, who hit .364 in 2014.
Video: Aberdeen's Breazeale blasts homer to left
Fawning factors: Daniel Castano and Sam Tewes have been thoroughbreds for the State College staff this season. The duo has started a combined 14 games and logged a decision in 13 of those. Castano (6-1 in 7 starts) leads the league with 44 2/3 innings, and Tewes (3-3 in 7 starts) is right behind him in second with 42 1/3 frames. The pair has also only yielded a combined four home runs and 14 walks over their 87 innings.
Power of Troy: With 34 home runs, Tri-City finds itself in a familiar place, atop the league leaderboard in that category. The ValleyCats led the league with 51 long balls a year ago and have been either first or second in team homers in each of the prior five seasons. First baseman Jake Adams and catcher Abraham Toro-Hernandez have led the charge with a league-best six dingers apiece.