Erik Komatsu Brings His Stick With Him

Erik Komatsu hit .355 at Cal-State Fullerton (left) in 2008 and then batted .321 at rookie league Helena after Milwaukee selected him in the eighth round last June. Komatsu took time recently to chat with

Erik Komatsu already has made numerous stops along his still young baseball journey. But one thing he's done at all of them is hit.

The left-handed swinger continued that trend during his first taste of professional ball last summer, a 68-game season with Helena of the Pioneer League.

Komatsu batted .321 with 19 doubles, 11 homers, 47 RBI and a .394 on-base percentage after being Milwaukee's eighth-round selection in the 2008 June draft.

It was a bit of a culture shock for the California native, but Komatsu survived small-town Montana off the field and allowed his physical talents to take over on the diamond.

"It was a lot slower pace, that's for sure, but all of the people were nice and my host mother was awesome," said Komatsu, who lives about 40 miles from Los Angeles. "(Playing there) was a lot of fun and we had really nice weather except for the last two weeks. I wish I could have stolen more bases (eight), but we didn't run much. And I was hitting about .360 at one point and would have liked to have finished somewhere around .340 to .350, but overall I was happy with the summer."

His performance came on the heels of a wonderful collegiate campaign at Cal-State Fullerton, where Komatsu topped the Titans with a .355 average, six triples, 54 RBI, .593 slugging percentage and .459 on-base percentage while tying for first with nine homers and taking second with 21 stolen bases.

That was the last big step in an amateur career that was derailed back in September 2003, when he tore the labrum in his left shoulder while throwing home during a St. Louis Cardinals scout team tryout. That ruined Komatsu's junior season at Camarillo High School—where he was a teammate of Minnesota's Delmon Young--and even though he batted .380 as a senior, many larger programs backed off. So, Komatsu attended NAIA school Vanguard.

Komatsu then earned valuable experience in the Northwoods League in the summer of 2006, where he played for Brainerd, Minn., hitting .273 with 13 doubles in the wooden-bat circuit.

He then played at Oxnard College in 2007, torching opposing pitchers to the tune of a .417 average with 10 long balls and 51 RBI while striking out only 15 times in 180 at-bats. That prompted the New York Yankees to select him in the 38th round.

However, that and his efforts during a preseason showcase helped earn Komatsu nearly 20 scholarship offers from NCAA Division I schools, and that in turn raised his status considerably with scouts and pushed him much higher in the draft.

"I'm glad I didn't sign (in '07) because I ended up having a good year at Fullerton and that raised my stock," Komatsu said. "The Yankees, Boston, A's, Royals and Tigers were pretty high on me. I had met with the Brewers' area scout, but I was surprised when they picked me.

"I thought I'd get drafted earlier because some people had said that I'd go between the second and fourth rounds and others said the third to the fifth," Komatsu said. "I was miserable and it was nerve-wracking to wait. I was watching the draft tracker when I saw my name, and the Brewers called me right after that. I was ticked off that I didn't go higher, so part of me wanted to show the other teams that they should have picked me. Bu the bottom line is that I just have to go out and play."

And the 5-foot-9-inch, 185-pound Komatsu has done that, combining above average speed and quickness defensively and on the base paths with his line-drive stroke.

"I'm pretty much a spray hitter," said Komatsu, who also was a pitcher early in his high school days. "I try to hit line drives and get my share of doubles. I have good power to all fields." Defensively I'd say I've got an above average arm. I run the 60 in about 6.7 or 6.8 seconds, so I'm not a burner but a big part of it is getting good jumps on the ball."

Komatsu has a good pedigree: His father, Dave, tried out for the Reds and his older brother, Davey, played at Oxnard. The former has been helping him get ready for the upcoming season at the local batting cage, while Komatsu's regimen also featured weight training and conditioning.

On Jan. 18, Komatsu is scheduled to begin a six-week session at Milwaukee's facilities in Arizona. He'll get a few days off and then return for training camp, after which Komatsu will find out whether he'll be taking his next step with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Midwest League or at Brevard County in the Florida State League.

"I'm looking forward to playing the 140-game schedule," Komatsu said. "I want to start at Brevard County, but you never know. I'll just go out and plead my case by playing good baseball."

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