Missions Notebook: Hoorelbeke Slumping

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - It's been said that the biggest challenge in all of sports is hitting a baseball. Fail 70 percent of the time, and you're a success. Right now, such a task couldn't be any harder for Missions first baseman/designated hitter Jesse Hoorelbeke, in the midst of a 7-47 hitting slump after a promising start to the season.

"I've been a little been tense at the plate," Hoorelbeke said. "In a slump like this you tend to push real hard, thinking ‘I've got to get a hit.' You've just got to relax and make happen whatever happens."

In an April 25 loss to Midland, Hoorelbeke went 1-2 to extend his hitting streak to seven games. Since then, his average (.317 at the time) has never been higher, going 0-4 a day later and starting on a downward spiral. And as his batting average began to dwindle, so did his playing time.

Hoorelbeke, 27, is hitting just .149 in his last 14 games, and recently went through a 0-18 streak at the plate from May 4-11, a string of five games. While first on the team in home runs (5) and second in RBI (20), the Idaho-native is batting .225 with 42 strikeouts, second in whiffs only to teammate Jon Nelson in the Texas League. The recent plunge puts a damper on a stellar showing before the season and then out of the gates.

"He had a great spring training, and he needed to, with no one knowing him," said manager Dave Brundage. "As of late he's been struggling a bit, but he's working hard in the cage, trying to get his swing back."

With his age and past experiences playing Double-A ball, the Mariners will be hard pressed to keep such a player on board unless things turn around fairly quickly. Along with Nate Espy, the Missions' roster currently includes two 27-year-old first basemen new to the organization, the difference between the two being that Espy is hitting while Hoorelbeke isn't. Still, the resilient and multi-talented player says he'll continue to put in the time and work it takes play professional baseball in hopes that someday it pays off, both literally and figuratively.

"I took a huge pay cut to play baseball, you can't pass up an opportunity like that," Hoorelbeke said. "I'll play until they absolutely tell me I can't anymore."

Hoorelbeke, a computer sciences/communications major at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, left a well-paying job with Dell in 2002 to sign a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The computer whiz has maintained his skill through the years, solving various computer problems for those within the Missions organization, including Brundage.

"He doesn't look like a computer guy, does he?" Brundage laughed. "I'm computer illiterate myself, but he can fix anything with my computer."

In working extensively with the coaching staff, particularly hitting coach Gary Thurman, Hoorelbeke has taken to his slump like that of a malfunctioning computer by taking it apart piece by piece, melding two unlikely fields in computer technology and the science of hitting.

"I'm a much better hitter than my numbers show," Hoorelbeke said. "I know that and I'm confident of that, so I don't worry about it. But when I am having some problems, I look at the whole situation. What am I doing wrong here? What about this? Rome wasn't built in a day, and you've got to look at it little by little and come around slowly. One swing doesn't fix a slump."

Rivera Gets the Call: Early last Sunday, Rene Rivera got the call he had been waiting for ever since he tasted the big leagues last season. The Missions catcher was called up to the big club following an injury to Mariners regular catcher Dan Wilson.

Rivera was hitting .273 with 6 doubles, 2 homers and 7 RBI, but has made an impression more behind the plate, where he defensive skills rate highly across the board. Rivera threw out an astounding 13-27 runners trying to steal against him in the Texas League.

As a result of the move, the Missions added two players to the roster. Luis Oliveros was called up from Peoria to give the Missions a second catcher, and Phil Wilson a 6-foot-8 right-handed pitcher, who was a third-round pick back in 1999, was also added.

Rivera returned to San Antonio late in the week when the Mariners traded for veteran catcher Pat Borders and placed him on the 25-man roster.

Guzman on a Tear: Jesus Guzman had his 13-game hitting streak end last Saturday, but his hot hitting has continued. Currently, he boasts a .318 average, and has hit safely in 18 of his last 19 games. Wednesday night, Guzman helped the Missions beat the Hooks, 6-4, going 4-5 with 3 RBI.

Jon Nelson also had a hitting streak of nine games end this week, when he went 0-3 Monday against Frisco. Nelson is currently tied for second in the league with 32 RBI.

Pitchers among League Leaders: Sean Green, the Missions' closer, has climbed to the league lead in saves with his 12th save coming Wednesday night against the Hooks. Along with that, he has lowered his ERA to a very respectable 3.26.

Jeff Harris, the Missions 30-year-old right-hander, won his fourth game of the year Wednesday, putting him in second place in the league in wins with a 4-0 record this year.

"Every time I go out there I just want to give the team a chance to win," said Harris, who has done exactly that so far this season.

Road Woes Continue: After dropping 4 out of 5 to Frisco earlier this week, the Missions' road record fell to 4-13 overall.

"We've struggled on the road, but hopefully we can level that out a little bit," designated hitter Nate Espy commented recently.

With the Missions taking the first two from Corpus Christi, hopefully this is a sign of whats to come from here on out.

The win on Wednesday against Corpus was the Missions' first win at Whataburger Field, the home of the expansion Corpus Christi Hooks.

Whats Ahead: The Missions finish their 10 game road trip on Sunday in Corpus, and come home Monday for a 7:05 start against Tulsa. Monday's game will be the first of three against Tulsa, and the beginning of a seven-game homestand.

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