Hoffpauir Finds Right Mindset

When you are a veteran at Triple-A, you are expected to hit. Thanks to a few adjustments mentally following a slow start to the season, veteran first baseman Micah Hoffpauir has turned a corner and is back into a groove at the plate.

At age 30, Hoffpauir hardly needs a crash course in Triple-A pitching. But when he opened the season batting just .182 on May 1, it was time for a change.

The change came not in Hoffpauir's approach or batting stance, but in his psyche.

"Whenever you look up at the scoreboard and see that you're hitting .185 or .200, you're thinking, ‘I've got to get a friggin' hit,'" said Hoffpauir. "Eventually you have to lean back on the fact that you know you can hit. That's kind of where it's at."

Hoffpauir stopped pressing, settled back into a rhythm, and the results have been fruitful. He has raised his average to .240 – shy of his career .287 mark in the minor leagues, but no longer bordering on the Mendoza Line – through 77 games.

He leads the Cubs' farm system in RBI with 54, and his 10 home runs are second in the system behind Iowa teammates Jason Dubois and Brad Snyder with 11.

Hoffpauir's turnaround was on display in a recent series at New Orleans, when the first baseman went 4-for-4 with two doubles and four RBI in a June 27 contest.

He followed that up with a three-hit showing against Omaha on July 2, hitting a two-run home run and collecting two doubles in a 5-3 win over the Royals.

With his age and experience, Hoffpauir has learned that patience is a virtue.

"Just more or less relax and try to continue to have fun and keep putting the barrel on the ball and good things will happen," he said. "That's what we're doing. (Iowa hitting coach) Von Joshua and I have been working on the same stuff we always do: trying to stay consistent in my work and not panicking and just going about my business."

The two series at New Orleans and Omaha are important to highlight because during the I-Cubs' first trips there in late April and early May, Hoffpauir went a combined 2-for-24 in seven games against the Zephyrs and Royals.

Iowa manager Ryne Sandberg noted that Hoffpauir's adjustments since then have put him and his team on the right track.

"He's an established hitter in this league and he got off to somewhat of a slow start, and now we're seeing him back to where he should be, driving the ball and using the whole field," Sandberg said. "Even when he struggled, he was still driving in runs and doing some little things to help us, but he's come along quite a bit."

Hoffpauir is in his sixth year at Triple-A (although he began 2009 in Chicago), and that provides him with enough memories to reflect on his years of service -- eight and counting to be exact -- in the Cubs' system.

"Obviously the Cubs gave me a great opportunity to actually play the game, so you thank them for that and just continue to go out and do your work," said Hoffpauir.

"It's been a lot of fun for me," he added. "I enjoy playing the game and I've always believed the day that I don't enjoy playing, I'm going to go home, and that day is not here. I'm still having a good time. Obviously we all want to be in the big leagues, but right now I still have a job so I can be thankful for that. I'm having a good time."

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