As the weather in Kane County continues to heat up, so has the bat of Myrio Richard, a 9th round pick in the 2009 draft. The Kane County Cougars outfielder started out the season in a terrible slump, which had his batting average well below .200. However, entering Wednesday, the 21-year old outfielder has been the hottest hitter on the team, and his batting average has soared to .296.
"When you go from [a sub-.200 batting average] to .296, you're hitting at a high clip," Cougars manager Aaron Nieckula said.
"He's just made some nice adjustments mechanically. He's made some nice adjustments on the mental side of the game, he's tweaked a few things working with [Cougars hitting coach] Haas [Pratt], and most importantly, his approach has been really solid."
But Richard's offensive struggles weren't strictly due to his physical or mental approach at the plate. Instead, his problems came from a nagging injury, which he suffered in the first week of the season. Richard was trying to beat out a groundball, when he injured his wrist diving head first into first base.
The injury cost Richard a week of games, but more importantly, he wasn't the same player for the first half of the season.
"I missed a week's worth of games, but then I came back, and it wasn't fully healthy," Richard said of his injured wrist. "But I just played through it, and hoped that it would get better as I went along."
The injury was a fluke accident, but it cost Richard during the beginning of the season. As a hitter, a wrist injury completely shuts down the basic mechanics of a swing. More importantly, a baseball player uses his wrist constantly during the course of a game, so the injury can take a lot longer to heal.
"Wrist and ankles are just nagging injuries," Richard said.
"They take a long time to get well. That's the reason why I came back too fast, because I knew it wasn't to get well fast. I didn't want to miss too much time, so I just sucked it up and played through it."
In the midst of the slump, Richard sought out help from Pratt, who helped tweak his swing. But Richard's biggest problem was the nagging injury that slowed down his normally quick bat.
"When it wasn't fully healthy, I don't think it allowed me to get my bat speed that I had," Richard said. "I was kind of tentative when I was swinging and trying to whip it, but it's better now."
Richard continued to play every day, and the pain gradually went away, and that's when he started to heat up. Even months after the injury first occurred, Richard admits the pain still returns every so often, and it will be a while before he is back to full health.
"It's still not 100%, I still feel it every now and then," Richard said of the pain in his wrist. "Probably at the beginning of last month, it got better where I didn't feel it in my swing consistently."
Richard has his swing and power back, and it's showing in his stats. In addition to his .296 average, entering Wednesday, his on-base percentage was .368 and he had a team-leading 114 total bases.
"He gets his pitch, and he doesn't miss it," Nieckula said.
"He puts a great swing on it and gets hard contact quite often. The quality of his ABs have really improved immensely from where he was in late April to early May."