While other minor league players spent last winter relaxing and recovering from the long grind of the baseball season, Mariners farmhand Bryan LaHair found himself living with five other guys in a house near the team's spring training complex in Peoria, Ariz.
It was there in January, some two months before minor leaguers were due to report to camp, that LaHair put in long hours of work to become a better player. So far, the results are hard to argue with for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers' first baseman.
Through August 25, the 6-foot-5 left-handed hitter is batting .282 with five home runs, 19 doubles and 28 RBI in a mere 216 at bats. He had five home runs, 27 RBI and 19 doubles in 207 at bats.
"The main thing is I stay inside myself and not try and do too much," the first baseman told InsidethePark recently. "I go up there with a plan."
That plan must be working pretty well, as he has been the Rattlers most consistent run producer since joining the team from Class Low-A Everett on June 26.
One of the biggest reasons for the 21-year-old's success has been his ability to hit well to all fields.
"It really just comes down to having a quick bat," he said. "Getting the bat head out there and getting extension. It all goes back to having that plan and looking for that pitch. Staying down through the ball and staying over it."
It's a team game, right? There are eight other guys in the batting order, right? So just how much can one solid hitter in a batting order that has been marred by inconsistency mean? Hitting coach Dana Williams believes he has the answer.
"Hitting is contagious," he said. "If you can get one guy that day in and day out is going to put the ball in play, is going to get a big hit, is going to do the little things that it takes to win ball games. It's contagious and everyone feeds off of him."
LaHair has surprised many with his success, as he was drafted in the 39th round of the June 2002 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. Don't expect him to surprise Midwest League pitchers, though. No, they've already been down that road and are now trying to find a way to combat the young slugger.
Bryan LaHair: At First Glance
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