The Bat's the Thing For Locke

Last season it was the home runs. This year, it's just about everything. What is it about Drew Locke, a 19th round draft choice, that has made him the hitter that he seldom was in college? Drew himself has at least part of the explanation- it's the bat.

No, no, not that it's corked or in any way juiced. It's the weight. As he explains, "In college, the metal bats were lighter and I got through the zone quicker. I tended to hook the ball into the corners; got a lot of doubles. Now, with wood bats, my swing is just a bit slower so I"m meeting the ball more squarely. I hit it more solidly and I've hit more homers than I ever have. Of course, at Ogden, the altitude helped."

College was Boston College from which Drew was chosen by the Dodgers last year. Sent to Ogden, he surprised just about everybody by slamming 13 homers to tie for the team lead. There he hit a respectable but hardly amazing .272.

This season, though, with Columbus he's not only providing power (he has eight homers), he's hitting for average --.329 as of today. What's more, he's at his best with men on and has 50 ribbies to show for it.

It's been quite a first half and it's earned him a spot in the South Atlantic League All-Star game where he's joined by teammates left-hander Marlon Arias, righthander Cory Wade, and third baseman Russ Mitchell.

As a native son of Massachusetts, Drew 's an admitted Red Sox fan but, hey, isn't there some sort of Bay State law that requires it? Besides, he truly enjoyed getting over to watch the Dodgers play spring games because, "Nomar, Bill Mueller, Grady Little. It was just like being at home."

Columbus' Golden Park is a long way from Fenway but if Locke keeps swinging that bat the way he has, he's shortening the distance to Dodger Stadium considerably.