The Player From Stetson Knows How to Hit

Chris Westervelt went to Stetson University, which to the uninformed, has to sound like a school in Texas. "Yeah, I get that all the time," he says rather wearily. Actually, it's far from the land where that's often an accountant under the 10-gallon hat, being located in DeLand, Fla. "I knew about it because I grew up in Florida."

He lives in Batesviille, Arkansas, now, when he's not plying his catcher's trade in the Dodgers system. They certainly have fond memories of Chris at Stetson for he was twice the Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year, a third team All-American selection by Collegiate Baseball publication and a first-team academic All- American.

The Dodgers were impressed by the way he came back from a leg injury to hit .350 and drive in 56 runs for Stetson. That got him drafted in the 11th round of the 2004 selection process. He kept on hitting at Ogden, too, but not right away for "When I got there Kengshil Pujols was the number one catcher because he'd done well in the extended spring. I was used sparingly, then got in and started to hit. I was used as a D. H. quite a bit."

Swing the bat well, he certainly did, winding up with a .341 mark including 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 49 games for the Raptors. But it was working on his batting eye in the off-season that delayed his 2005 start.

"I was swinging a bat but felt something pop in my hand. That was in November and it bothered me a lot. I came to spring training early in February and tried to play but couldn't. When I couldn't go any further they scoped my wrist in three places because I had a broken hamate bone."

He'd played through pain throughout much of spring training before having the surgery, Then came the rehab which he finally finished at the end of June. That was followed though by another problems for "The extended camp was ended and the players had left for Ogden so there were no games in camp to get into. I got only a couple of at-bats when they sent me to Columbus."

It was inevitable that his timing would be off and he soon plunged into an 0-25 slump. "Then I started to hit again and did pretty well after that." That he did, pulling himself up to a final .263 mark with five home runs.

There never has been any question about the ability of the player they call "Westy" to hit. But he admits that his catching skills need refining so that's what he's been doing in the Instructional Camp which closes shop this weekend. "I'm working on handling pitchers and they've done some things with my throwing mechanics. They've definitely changed me and I can see the improvement."

Westervelt was a business major at Stetson but don't look for him to become a "suit" anytime soon. He loves the game too much. "I play hard," he say. If he continues to hit and his catching skills get sharper, he certainly can become a factor for the Dodgers.