Womack Starting to Break Out

APPLETON, Wisc. - With a season like the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are having, it is hard to find anyone who is not smiling at Fox Cities Stadium. The team is full of great guys who are finding every possible way to win games. And all of them seem to be improving vastly on a day-to-day basis.

Among this group of players, it would be hard to find a single one who fits that mold more than outfielder Josh Womack. The 21-year-old is all smiles these days, as he is enjoying a breakout year and helping the team stay near the top of the division.

The Mariners drafted Womack in the second round in 2002. That season, he joined the Peoria Mariners of the Arizona Rookie League and experienced a somewhat successful season, hitting .269. The following season, Womack was moved up to Everett and batted .297, reaching base safely in 34 of the 41 games with the AquaSox.

Last season, the Mariners started the multi-tooled outfielder with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the Mariners Class-A affiliate in the Midwest League. Womack played okay, hitting .260 with 24 stolen bases and nine triples, but not great.

"I thought I did decent last year, but I could have done better," said Womack of his first full season of professional baseball.

While Womack has played fairly well in his first three seasons, he did not blow anyone away. And rather than promote the San Diego native to start this season, the Mariners decided to have Womack spend another year with the Timber Rattlers in order to sharpen his game. The decision to keep him in Wisconsin another year led some to question the progress of the former second round pick.

What a difference a year can make.

The once timid and immature Womack has transformed into a seasoned hitting machine that seems to have it all together. He is looking like the promising outfielder the Mariners saw three years ago when he was the 69th overall choice in the draft.

The biggest change for Womack has been his dramatic increase in maturity and confidence over the past year. While the potential has always been there, it was most likely hampered by the young prospect's lack of experience.

"Mentality is the biggest thing," said Womack. "I've kind of grown more mature in that aspect. And this season I'm basically putting everything in the hands of God."

Womack's return to the Midwest League has a lot to do with his growth in confidence. At the young age of 21, Womack is one of the league's veterans and that year of experience is really paying off.

"One year older and repeating in this league, that gives you confidence in knowing the batter's eyes," said Rattlers skipper Scott Steinmann. "Knowing the mounds, knowing what foul lines curve in or curve out so he can bunt more. He's gained a lot of maturity and he's improved a lot of his skills."

Things have changed dramatically over the past year for the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Womack. He is hitting and fielding very well this year and, as of April 28, Womack is riding a 16-game hitting streak and batting .347, with five stolen bases. Womack also boasts an on-base percentage of .421.

"He's gotten serious with what he's doing and everything seems to come his way," said Wisconsin hitting coach Tommy Cruz. "I am happy for him. He's got a lot of confidence now."

Another noticeable difference with Womack is his willingness to do the little things. He has become a bunting extraordinaire early on this season.

"Bunting's always kind of been there and I've never really used it," said Womack. " It is something coaches have been preaching for years and I just finally, thick-headed, started to get through."

And his coaches are very pleased with his eagerness to utilize his speed and skill to lay down bunts.

"He's got the green light to bunt whenever he wants to," said Steinmann. "We're giving him the confidence and he needs to learn how to do that."

The one word that seems to always come up in regards to Womack these days is maturity. The added experience will allow him to truly develop as a person as well as a baseball player.

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