Horton Happy To Be Back On The Field

MIDLAND, TX - After so many memorable seasons in his baseball career, Josh Horton would likely prefer to forget the 2011 campaign. The Oakland A's infield prospect began the year in big league camp but missed most of the regular season with a hamstring injury. Now back on the field, Horton is aiming to make 2012 a year not to forget with a return to the post-season with the Midland Rockhounds.

In his fourth season with the Rockhounds, Josh Horton has had an up-and-down first half in 2012. His batting average has dropped from a .286 in 2010 to .245 (747 OPS) this year. The Chapel Hill, NC, native has played in 60 games and recorded 56 hits in 229 at-bats. Horton's power numbers have been solid, however. Seventeen of those hits have been doubles, which leads the ‘Hounds, and he is tied for second on the team in homeruns (6). Those six homeruns are already a career-high. Horton's 33 RBIs rank him fourth on the club along with shortstop Dusty Coleman. The normally sure-handed Horton has had a tough time defensively, however, evident by his team-leading 13 errors. In his last 10 games, the 26-year-old is batting only .152 with nine strikeouts and five hits.

A mere two-and-a-half months into the season, Horton has already far surpassed his games played and at-bat totals for 2011. Horton began the 2011 campaign as a reserve player for Triple-A Sacramento. Horton received inconsistent playing time with the River Cats and spent some time on the DL before being sent back to Double-A midway through the season. Horton would appear in only one game for the Rockhounds in 2011, as he injured his hamstring in his 2011 Midland debut and missed the rest of the season. Horton had only 27 games played and 95 at-bats last season.

Thus far in 2012, Horton has had better luck in the health department. He appeared in 60 of the Rockhounds' first 63 games before missing the past two games with a bruised wrist. The injury is considered minor and Horton is expected back on the field as soon as Friday.

Despite his inconsistencies, Horton said he has fully recovered from the hamstring injury that cost him most of 2011.

"I feel 100 percent now," Horton said. "I don't think the injury set me back at all. I've dealt with other injuries before so I know how to handle them. I am right where I want to be physically. I'm just working to stay healthy all season and help the team get back to the playoffs."

"Anytime you have an injury you're disappointed you can't be out there on the field. That was tough but I worked on strengthening my hamstring this offseason and it feels 100 percent better."

Horton attended the University of North Carolina in his hometown for three seasons. He set several records and was garnered with numerous awards before being selected in the second round of the 2007 draft by Oakland.

With the Tar Heels Horton was named Freshman All-American by Baseball America and Louisville Slugger and Second Team All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 2005. Horton hit .347 during that season. His sophomore year he earned All-American honors from Rivals.com (First Team), Baseball America (Second Team) and Collegiate Baseball / Louisville Slugger (Third Team). The awards did not stop there. He made the First Team All-ACC and tore up the basepaths with a .395 average, good enough to claim the conference batting title. North Carolina traveled to the College World Series where Horton hit .333 and was named to the College World Series All-Tournament Team and Regional All-Tournament Team.

By the time the infielder left UNC, he ranked seventh all-time in their history with a .360 career average. The Tar Heels returned to the College World Series championship round for a second straight year in Horton's junior season but fell to Oregon State.

In 2008 Horton was a member of Stockton's California League championship club. He hit .388 during the team's playoff run. The next year brought another league championship to put on his resume: this time it was with Midland. In game three of the Texas League Championship Series, Horton smacked two homeruns to help the Rockhounds earn a 9-7 win over Northwest Arkansas.

In 2010, Horton began the year with Stockton after rehabbing his off-season shoulder injury, but he would spend the majority of the year in Midland. For the Rockhounds, he scored 60 runs, produced 120 hits and drove in 51. He was selected to the mid-season and post-season Texas League All-Star teams. At the conclusion of 2010 Horton ranked fifth on the A's farm in batting (a combined .298) and was seventh in hits (134).

Horton would love to have a year similar to 2010 though he is not focused on the numbers.

"I'm never paying much attention to my stats," Horton said. "Would I like to improve every year? Of course but I just go out there and play hard and stick to my game-plan and everything else should fall into place."

Having been part of two playoff teams with the ‘Hounds, Horton said the 2012 team should have a chance to return to the post-season after missing out last year.

"This is a good team," he said. "We have a lot of great players so I don't see any reason why we can't go back to the playoffs. There is good chemistry in our clubhouse."

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