Brian Mathews Tries to Get Through The Pack

We've all had it happen to us. You're driving along a highway when up ahead something has occurred. Maybe it was an accident or maybe construction but now what were five or four lanes becomes two or even one and you're packed in wall to wall cars.

Then you notice that out on the shoulder of the road some guy pulls out and starts roaring up ahead followed by someone else. You just know they're going to be able to force their way in up there and here you are- helpless.

Brian Mathews knows the feeling. He's a third baseman and when he signed as a draft-and-follow in 2006, there already was a crowd of some pretty talented peole ahead of him- Andy LaRoche, Blake DeWitt, Josh Bell. Then, after he's played a year what do they do but sign Austin Gallagher and Pedro Baez and there they are, out on the side, moving up briskly and cutting into line ahead.

Mathews has some talent, particularly the strength to hit home runs. Still, he didn't do all that much as a rookie in the GulfCoast League in 2006. Just three home runs and a .250 average. Not the sort of season to encourage them to thrust him up there. So, no wonder he felt hemmed in.

And when Gallagher was assigned to Ogden as a teammate and got the playing time at third the frustration mounted. Then, an opening and it was Mathews who began to make some moves.

First, he was sent to left field so he could get in the lineup. He also began hitting and with his average up to .287 and his home run production up to five, another big break when Bell was promoted from Great Lakes to Inland Empire and Mathews was selected to replace him with the Michigan team.

Even more noticable was the fact that while Bell was having his problems getting going in the Cal League, Mathews was thriving in the Midwest. He finished the year with a .319 mark compiled there. True, he jacked only one out of the yard but he appeared a lot more confident and capable at the plate than ever before.

And that gained him an invitation to the Instructuional League in the fall. True he was back at third but still he was in a group of the better prospects

Not that matters have changed all that much at his position. There's stil lvery much a crwod of some pretty good people. But here's a guy who's a solid six feet, 210, just 20 years old who might qualify for better things despite that.

Wait a minute, though. There's somebody out on that shoulder again, making like Jeff Gordon, hot-rodding his way past everybody else. Could that be Miguel Cabrera trying to make his way to the front of the line?

Suddenly left field looks like an open exit ramp for more than just a few if that ever happens.

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