Saturday was a full day for me in Lancaster. I got several interviews, including three players who featured prominently in Saturday night's walk-off extra inning win -- Andrew Robinson and his three fantastic innings of relief; Chris Epps and his two home runs; and Erik Castro with his game-winning hit. But I was missing one hero from the night, Alex Todd.
Alex was four-for-five with a walk and a stolen base, but it was his diving catch in the seventh inning that set in motion a triple play completed by Kike Hernandez, the first triple play I've ever seen in person and, it turns out, the first triple play of Alex's professional career. So, even though I was only planning on making some contacts with players in my final day on Sunday, I had to get this one last interview.
Alex landed on my radar screen recently and I included him in this piece from three weeks ago. Since posting that, Alex has been on an absolute tear at the plate. His combined batting line for Lexington and Lancaster for the season is .294/.367/.409 and he has hit .357/.378/.452 in his last 10 games (.458 in August thus far). This is after recording some rather anemic numbers during his first season in 2011.
When I caught up with Alex, I asked him about Saturday's come from behind win. "Last night was awesome. It was a crazy game," he said. In reply to a question about his at-bats, he noted, "It's August. Your body's kind of getting tired which is sometimes a good thing because you don't try to do too much. [You're] in the box, in your comfort zone and looking for a good pitch to hit. Fortunately I got a couple of pitches to hit last night."
On the triple play, "That was something cool. It was like when it happened, I didn't know what to do. I caught the ball and I flipped it to Kike [and Kike stepped on second] and I was yelling at him, 'Throw it to first, throw it to first' and he just tagged the runner. It was pretty cool to be a part of it. It never happens. You never practice it. It's one of those things so far out of the norm." And there was some momentary confusion on the field at the end of the play as the realization set in that a no outs, two on situation had erased itself in a matter of seconds.
I also talked to Alex about his turnaround at the plate this season. As I alluded to earlier, he wasn't exactly setting the world on fire with his numbers last season. What was different for him? "I bounced around a lot of schools and my swing was always kind of changing with [every] new hitting coach. Going from college to pro ball, my swing was no where near where it should be so me and Boni [Lexington hitting coach Josh Bonifay] just put in hours and hours and a lot of changes throughout the summer. The last three weeks I was starting to get a plan, [getting] a feel for it and [sticking] with that."
Since his promotion to Lancaster the work has continued with hitting coach Darryl Robinson. He is taking advice here and there from Coaches Bonifay and Robinson, as well as the roving instructors and trying to figure out what works for him. "I'm glad it turned itself around though. It was not a fun summer last year. A lot of sleepless nights." He is glad to have faced that adversity early because it helps him take things in stride now.
As to what he needs to do to get to the next level developmentally, "It's just fine-tuning stuff. It's not missing pitches. It's being ready to hit in every count. Your numbers are going to come from pitcher's mistakes. When they make a mistake, you need to hit it and hit it hard. Now [with] my approach and my swing being closer to normal and correct, I feel like I'm making more hard contact on those mistake pitches. A lot of it comes from trusting your hands and not trying to do too much because once you're trying to do too much, everything's going in different directions and that's when it gets ugly."
Well I know one thing. There was nothing ugly about Alex Todd's game on Saturday. And that triple play was actually a thing of beauty.