"We kid him because sometimes his batting practice is horrible," joked Canadians hitting coach Dave Pano. "But he's a game guy, he performs very well in the game. It just baffles me because sometimes before the game I'll say he's going to have a bad day."
The Blue Jays 11th round pick in 2010 is enjoying a productive season at the plate, especially considering he is only one year removed from playing at Colorado's Heritage High School.
After hitting .303 in only 33 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League last season, Optiz has taken over the reigns as the Canadians starting shortstop. The left-handed hitter is batting .272 with 17 RBI through 37 games, good for fifth among regulars on a Canadians team that has had no problem scoring.
Pano isn't surprised by the 19-year old's success so far.
"I had him in the Instructional League and in Florida," Pano said. "We thought he was going to be solid when he came in and that's exactly what he's been. He's done a pretty good job. The big thing for him going forward now is to get stronger.
"He's worked really hard on his swing and trying to stay through the middle of the field. I would like to see more consistency as far as trying to stay through the middle."
Opitz's confidence is evident but he's quick to give credit.
"Of course I always had confidence but Pano's been a big part of that," said the outgoing Opitz.
The two have worked on making the transition to the rigors of a more competitive league in Opitz's second professional season as the wheat begins to separate from the chaff.
"The pitchers here can throw their breaking balls for strikes as opposed to the younger levels where guys just throw harder and mostly fastballs," Opitz said of the competition level.
At the plate, he's buying into Pano's simplified approach.
"It just depends on certain situations but for the most part, I'm going for the fastball," Opitz said. :I'm pretty much just staying consistent up the middle. I'm the type of hitter than can go opposite way or pull gap to gap."
While Opitz is happy with his success so far, he is still experiencing some growing pains. The native of Centennial, Colorado has committed a team-high eleven errors at the position. Still, when asked what area he'd like to improve on most heading into the second half of the Northwest League season, Opitz fully realizes how much further he has to go in his quest to make it to the Big Leagues.
"It'd be everything, there's not one specific area," said the personable teenager.
That must be music to the organization's ears.
Opitz Chipping In With Solid Season
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