Fox Staying Focused on Defense, Plate Discipline

Daytona catcher Jake Fox returned to the lineup on Wednesday night after missing 12 games with a sprained knee ligament suffered on May 12 against Lakeland. Inside The Ivy recently caught up with Fox and got his thoughts on his season to date and more.

"I tell you, things could be worse and they could be better," said Fox, a native of Beech Grove, Ind. "My real focus has been defense, because that's what the organization's focus is. My offense isn't quite where I'd like it to be, but it comes and goes. I'm real happy with where I'm at defensively and am just waiting for my offense to kick into high gear."

Fox is currently batting .254 with five extra-base hits and five RBI. He has fanned nine times while drawing eight walks. On defense, the Michigan alumnus has three errors behind the plate. He had a farm system most 25 passed balls in 2004 with Class Mid-A Lansing.

While with the Lugnuts, Fox alternated playing time behind the plate with Alan Rick, a fourth round pick in 2002. This season, the ex-Wolverine has been paired with fellow 2003 draft pick Tony Richie, a Florida State alumnus who was drafted one round after Fox.

Fox says there's no pressure associated with being on the same team as a fellow high-round draftee.

"I wouldn't say there is," Fox said. "I've really enjoyed playing with Tony. We're both pretty talented and it's fun playing with someone you get along well with. A lot of people make it out to be a competition, but if you're good enough to make it to the big leagues, you'll make it regardless of who you're playing with.

"I don't view it as a competition. There are things he'll learn from me and things I'll learn from him. It's working out well for both of us."

Recently, Fox got a brief taste of left field in a May 9 game at Tampa. It was his first career start in the outfield.

"It came down to a situation where our manager (Richie Zisk) didn't have anybody else to play out there," said Fox, who hit .287 with 14 home runs and 55 RBI a year ago. "When I came in to the clubhouse, my name was in the lineup. I think it was a disciplinary thing for some of the other guys. It all came down to me, so I just had to go do the best I could do and hope I didn't screw up too badly. He (Zisk) told some guys that they weren't going to play that day, and when he went down the lineup, there was only me left."

With a .400 (6-for-15) average with runners on base and two outs, Fox continues to thrive in clutch situations. At Lansing last season, he batted a solid .362 in that situation with over half of his RBI coming with two outs.

"I think a lot of it stems from not changing my approach," Fox said. "A lot of guys in those situations are constantly trying to change what they do. To me, you have to go up there and keep the same approach all year and let the pitcher be the one to make the mistakes. He's trying to change his approach, too. He'll try to do something he hasn't done previously in the game and that will get him into trouble. I try to keep the same approach all year long, and that's what makes me successful. Every time I go up to the plate, I do what I do and hope everything falls into place."

All throughout the offseason and in Spring Training, Fox worked diligently at improving his defense. Now almost two months into his second year of full-season ball, he admits to being divided on which aspect of his game he is stressing improvement on the most right now.

"There are two things," said Fox. "One is being a complete player behind the plate. I've always had some good physical abilities there, like handling a pitching staff and piecing a whole game together. I played in the (Arizona) Fall League and there's really not a whole lot that separates me physically. I look for edges that might really help me pass some guys by, and I look for the kinds of intangibles that will put me above some of the guys that are also looking for a job. My focus this year has been to make sure I'm not only using my body, but my head as well. I've got some good instructors here like Grady Little. I always pick Grady's brain. You really have to whenever he's around."

And at the plate?

"Offensively, I've been working on plate discipline," Fox said. "I had a lot of strikeouts last year swinging at bad pitches. This year, you'll see my walks and strikeouts are about even. Once I get my approach down pat, you'll see me hitting for more power and getting more pitches to hit. If I'm able to be patient, I'll be putting up some good numbers."

As mentioned earlier, Fox was recently involved in a collision at home plate on May 12 against the Lakeland Tigers that caused him to sustain a sprained knee ligament and miss over a week's worth of playing time.

"It was nothing major," Fox said. "After having some pain there, you always worry because of all the horror stories you hear with guys having career-ending injuries. The MRI results were more of a relief than anything. It could have been much worse. I'm counting my blessings."

It goes without saying that Daytona is home to one of the world's most famous beaches. When he's not at the ballpark, the 22-year-old Fox says he takes up body boarding as a spare hobby.

"It's sort of a poor man's surfing," he explains. "I'd never had an opportunity to live on the beach, so I spend a lot of time there. When I'm away from the field, I like to separate myself as much as I can. The other night my roommates and I played a little cards and some PlayStation games. I'm not much of a guy that goes out and does rambunctious things, because I get enough of that at the field.

"I just like to lay back, go with the flow, and take it easy."

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