Cobb's Effort Is Second-To-None

In 2006, the Oakland A's selected outfielder Larry Cobb out of College of Charleston in the 27th round. Coaches quickly fell in love with Cobb's all-out effort on the field and willingness to learn. That willingness to get better has been important for Cobb in 2007, as he is working on a position change while learning to adjust to a more advanced level of pitching than he saw in 2006.

It seems every night, on ESPN's Baseball Tonight, there are at least five web gems from infielder's that blow your mind. As a viewer, you sit back and wonder how many ground balls these ballplayers take in practice and how long they have played the position to make the plays seem so easy. Switch gears now to the Kane County Cougars. There's a grounder to the right side of the infield. Cougars 1B Greg Dowling has no chance to get it. It looks like a sure single, but out of nowhere comes 2B Larry Cobb who makes a diving stop and throws a runner out from his knees.

To an unknowledgeable viewer, it's an amazing play. To someone who knows Cobb's background, it's more than that. Consider that Cobb is only 5'7" and is able to cover all that range, and the play becomes remarkable. Throw in the fact that this is his first year at second base on the professional level, and the play becomes unbelievable.

Cobb, originally drafted by the Oakland A's as an outfielder, has worked on his game to become good in both the infield as well as outfield.

"When I got drafted, I knew it was good to be versatile," Cobb said. "I played second base in high school and in college my coached switched me to the outfield. But last year, during instructional leagues, I was switched to second base, and it's a lot harder than the outfield."

For Cobb, the move to second base has not been easy. However, with the help of former teammate Isaac Omura (recently promoted to Stockton) and SS Mike Affronti, Cobb has steadily learned more about the position.

"I always ask Affronti questions during practice," Cobb said. "I've gotten a lot better at turning double plays. Having your feet in the right position is something that's very hard to learn. I haven't done it consistently but I'm starting to get much better at it."

In addition to Cobb moving around in the field, he has jumped into almost every position in the batting order. Currently he sits at the two-spot in the order, a position he feels suits him well.

"I enjoy hitting in the two-spot because I'm a good hit and run guy and a good bunt guy," Cobb said. "But I'll hit anywhere. It really doesn't matter to me."

Cougars manager Aaron Nieckula doesn't like it when Cobb hits the ball in air. In fact, he almost hates it. After Cobb hit a home run early in the season, Nieckula stated that he "hoped it didn't get to his head." But despite Nieckula's position, Cobb has a lot of power for a smaller guy, hitting three home runs so far on the year. Of course, home runs aren't anything new to Cobb.

"I have a little more power than any small guy usually has," Cobb said with a smile. "I have hit a lot of fly balls recently and that's bad because it's not my game. But I've been hitting home runs since I was a sophomore in high school and it's continued ever since."

Those who know Cobb are quick not to judge him as a smaller ball player. Since getting run into comes with the territory at second base, one would think that Cobb would avoid contact as much as possible. But that's not the case.

"He's a guy that stays in there on a double play and isn't afraid of contact," Nieckula said. "He makes the routine play, turns double plays, hustles after pop-ups and is a take charge kind of guy. A real gamer."

Cobb is comparable to Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Aaron Rowand in that he has absolutely no regard for his body. On more than one occasion, Cobb has visited the bullpen on a full-out sprint that has resulted in him tumbling to the ground to try and snag a ball that ends up in the stands.

"I agree with playing ‘balls to the walls' on every play," Cobb said about his mentality on the field. "Pitcher's love it when they see you having no regard for your personal safety out there and it gives them confidence that you will do anything you can to help them."

While Cobb has progressed steadily at second base, he has struggled at the plate, hitting .230 on the year. Cobb has been consistently working with Cougars hitting coach Benny Winslow as well as the A's roving organizational hitting instructors to try and figure out how to improve at the plate.

"I haven't been hitting nearly as well as I should be," Cobb said about his average. "I've been caught up in a mechanics thing and have been switching up my swing a little too much. I think I'm starting to get things down now."

Cobb entered the all-star break on a six-game hitting streak, and appears to be turning things around. With no visible back up behind him in Kane County, the position should be Cobb's for the remainder of the season. With a new start and a 0-0 record in the second half, Cobb hopes to help the team continue the success they had in the last 10 games before the break.

"I just want to help the team out in any way I can," said Cobb. "We just need to keep playing hard and we will be okay."

One thing is for sure, playing hard shouldn't be too hard for a guy like Cobb.

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