Timber Rattlers Notebook: Womack a Hit-Machine

APPLETON, Wisc. – By now, the secret is out: the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are a team that can hit the baseball. They lead the Midwest League in several hitting categories and have a number of prolific hitters on their club. While much of the credit often goes to players like Matt Tuiasosopo and Yung-Chi Chen, another player who deserves recognition is Josh Womack, a second-round pick by Seattle in 2002 who recently had a 22-game hitting streak.

Womack's hitting consistency has been one of the primary keys for the Rattlers fast start this season, enabling the club to remain around the top of their division. His hitting streak, by far the longest of his career, seemingly came out of nowhere. Prior to 2005, Womack was hardly a consistent hitter. While talented, and gifted athletically, he struggled to put it all together, hovering around the .250 mark from a batting average standpoint.

Asked to repeat at Mid-A Wisconsin, the maturity he's shown as a ballplayer and as a person has translated into success at the plate. His streak started back on April 10 against the Peoria Chiefs. In that game, Womack picked up his first hit of the season, going 2-5 with a run scored and an RBI. His success continued through the month of April and into early May, a 22-game stretch in which he went 32-94 (.340).

Hitting streaks affect players mentally and each player you talk to has their own theory on sustaining the success. These theories are thrown around a lot when a teammate gets hot, and players are often not shy about giving their advice on the topic.

"Everyone says you have to not change, don't do too much, and don't try to worry about it at the plate," said Womack, whose previous high streak was a 13-gamer with Wisconsin last season. "Don't force the hit, because likely you're going to strikeout."

Like any player on a hitting streak, Womack got his share of advice on sustaining the streak. But the San Diego native has one definite reason for his success this season, and that is his strong faith in God.

"I have a really good relationship with Jesus Christ that is the only way I got through it," said Womack. "I pretty much gave him all my worries, because that is a big burden to carry, because everyone's thinking about it."

While Womack undoubtedly gives God credit for his success, he also feels his teammates helped him considerably. They kept rooting for him, but did so without adding any extra pressure.

"A lot of guys will say something after the fact, said Womack. "They didn't want to say anything before I got a hit in a game."

One of the keys to Womack's successful streak has been his willingness to do the little things such as stealing and bunting. He has become a very patient player and developed his base stealing and bunting abilities. In doing so, he has started to remind Timber Ratters' hitting coach Tommy Cruz of Chicago White Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik, who played in the Mariners organization before being traded to Milwaukee, then Chicago.

"The bunting saved me from stopping (the streak) a while ago," said Womack. "Just being able to use that tool being able to sneak a few balls here and there. And that confidence builds just getting that one hit even if it's a bunt."

Womack's maturity is very evident when talking to him about the hitting streak and how he handled it.

"It wasn't that tough, if you're in the right mind frame, said Womack. "I'm not really sad it's over. It was fun, a joy to do and no pressure or pain whatsoever."

New Faces:Omar Falcon and outfielder Sebastien Boucher. Falcon joins the Rattlers after serving a 15-game suspension for substance abuse. He had been working out at extended spring training in Peoria, Ariz.. Boucher, who is Canadian, signed with the Mariners after being drafted last season but was unable to obtain a visa. A natural center fielder, he has played more in left thus far with the club.

Tough Road Trip: The Rattlers suffered their first losing series of the season. They went 1-3 against the Southwest Michigan Devils Rays. Wisconsin took the first game of the four-game series, winning 8-5 on May 2, but lost the next three to the Devil Rays.

Attack of the Unearned Runs: In the Rattlers first two games against the Dayton Dragons, they gave up 11 unearned runs. In the first game on May 6, they allowed six runs in the fourth inning, all unearned. And in the game on May 7, a costly error by Brent Johnson led to five unearned runs in the first inning. Ouch. Both games resulted in losses.

Coming Up Next: The Rattlers wrap up an eight-game homestand on Friday, May 13. The team will finish a four-game home series with the Dayton Dragons on Monday. And they will face the defending Midwest League Champion Western Michigan Whitecaps on Tuesday, the first of a four-game series.

Jeff Harrison appreciates your feedback at Jeffrey.E.Harrison@gmail.com.

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